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176 Concord Street, P.O. Box 22287, Charleston, SC 29413-2287
Contact: Erin Dhand, Manager, Corporate Communications and Community Affairs
Telephone: 843-577-8121 • Fax: 843-577-8127 • e-mail:


S.C. - Then and Now

From A Book Published By The S.C. Dept. Of Archives & History

The South Carolina State Ports Authority

Standing proud as the nation's fourth busiest container port, the South Carolina State Ports Authority today offers an amazing contrast in both size and impact from the days of its creation. This success is the result of careful planning, hard work and effective marketing.

In 1941 the Legislature of South Carolina asked a committee to study the port needs of the state and report on whether the capability to meet that need existed in Charleston, then a city-sponsored port. The manufacturing base gave a resounding yes to the need for a port to move their goods to market.

The General Assembly formed the Ports Authority in 1942 with the major port at Charleston and sister ports at Georgetown and Port Royal. Existing terminals had to be torn down and rebuilt in concrete. An engineer observed that Charleston must indeed be the Holy City, since there was nothing supporting the docks -- worms had eaten the timbers through.

In the 1960s South Carolina business began to depend more and more on the port. In the early 1970s the State Ports Authority Board committed to containerization. Large shipping containers were a brand new mode of moving cargo that revolutionized international transportation, worldwide. Charleston had the first container facilities in the South and gradually assumed the lead container port position south of New York on the East Coast.

The ability of containers to rapidly move a high volume of cargo through relatively limited facilities poised Charleston for the rapid growth it has experienced in recent years. Everyday the Port of Charleston moves cargo valued at $79 million. In addition to containers, the port handles a growing amount of roll-on roll-off cargo such as cars and heavy machinery as well as the more traditional kinds of break bulk cargo including paper and forest products.

The success of the entire port system has been closely tied to the growth of industry in the state and the region. Many of the companies that have come to South Carolina, such as Michelin, BMW, Bosch and Fuji, have credited the efficient port at Charleston as one of the major attractions. The smaller but viable ports of Georgetown and Port Royal have also been a major advantage to the industries developing around them.

Every county in South Carolina has business that uses the State's ports and the Ports of South Carolina are working for every one of the state's citizens.