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Contact: Erin Dhand, Manager, Corporate Communications and Community Affairs
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SC Ports Authority Suspends Jasper Funding, Sets Path Forward

Charleston, SC - The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) Board today said deepening of the Savannah River up to the future Jasper Ocean Terminal should be an alternative to the currently proposed deepening project. Until that happens, it has suspended future funding related to the Jasper Ocean Terminal and set out a path for the two states to get the project back on track.

At its regular monthly meeting, the SCPA board discussed how the proposed Savannah River deepening project would be insufficient to handle the larger container ships that already call the U.S. East Coast and that are expected to increase with the expansion of the Panama Canal.

“The proposed Savannah River deepening was probably fine when first conceived in 1999, but today’s global shipping environment requires more,” said Bill Stern, chairman of the SCPA.

He noted that a 50-foot deep channel has emerged as the minimum standard for the post-Panamax world in other East Coast ports - including New York, Baltimore, Norfolk and Miami - but the Savannah River would fall short even after deepening.

For some time Stern and others have warned that the proposed Savannah River deepening project could severely delay or even kill the prospects for a terminal in Jasper.

“It’s a bad deal for the taxpayer to spend billions of dollars for a new Jasper Ocean Terminal on a last generation river,” said Stern. “That means another deepening project, beyond the one currently being reviewed, would be required.”

The Board concluded that it is not feasible to build a multi-billion-dollar Jasper Ocean Terminal under current and proposed conditions, voting to suspend funding related to the project.

To realize a terminal in Jasper, Stern called on Georgia to join with South Carolina in requesting that the Corps consider dredging to the Jasper site as an alternative in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, noting that such a project would cost much less and generate significantly fewer environmental impacts.

The SCPA will also seek to amend the intergovernmental agreement between the states, detailing specific actions required to help the Jasper Ocean Terminal.

Changes would include releasing the 50-year Federal easements on the entire site, sharing equally the costs of infrastructure to the site, determining the navigational capacity of the Savannah River and ensuring equal, dual-rail access from both major railroads.

“I hope our neighbors in Georgia share our long-term commitment to a Jasper Ocean Terminal and work with South Carolina to ensure its future,” Stern said.

The Board also took other actions at its meeting today in Charleston:

1) Strategic Plan Update - Approved an update to its Strategic Plan, reflecting changes in the global economy, the container shipping industry and the Atlantic Coast port industry. The three-month effort resulted in a focus on four key strategic issues:


2) New TOS - Approved an $11.9-million contract for HITT Contracting of North Charleston to install infrastructure related to a new terminal operating system (TOS) at the Wando Welch and North Charleston terminals. Implementation of the Navis SPARCS N4 TOS will improve customer service, increase efficiency and enhance cargo visibility.

3) Engineering for New Cranes - Approved a $1.2-million contract with Shaw GBB of Mobile for engineering consulting services related to the purchase four new super-post-Panamax container cranes for the North Charleston Terminal.

4) Personnel Actions - Approved a new organizational structure and related personnel actions to better align the organization with its strategic priorities. Four senior vice presidents include: Paul McClintock, chief commercial officer; Bill McLean, chief operations officer; Peter Hughes, chief financial officer; and Barbara Melvin, external affairs.

November Volume Update

Results in the container business segment continue to reflect some weakness in the U.S. economy. Container volume in the Port of Charleston totaled 112,431 20-foot equivalent units (TEU) in November, up 1.5 percent from November 2010. Fiscal year-to-date (Jul-Nov) totaled 579,449 TEU, down slightly (0.82 percent) from same five months last year.

“While we are tracking well with other U.S. ports, we are in a flat economic environment,” SCPA President & CEO Jim Newsome stated.

While container business remains relatively flat, other cargo segments remain healthy. The SCPA’s non-container business is up nearly 54 percent in FY2011, totaling 556,800 tons compared to 362,011 tons the year prior. These results came despite a 26 percent decline in November.

The Port of Georgetown is leading the increase in non-container business this year, more than doubling from last year to 207,540 tons. Breakbulk, bulk and ro-ro business through the SCPA’s terminals in Charleston was 349,260 tons July-November, up 30 percent from last year.