SC Ports is working at full capacity, but the backlog is expected to continue in the upcoming period, CEO Newsome says

Charleston, South Carolina – Americans are having hard times in the last couple of months to get their products on time, something that is causing a lot of problems for everyone, including businesses.

The shortages are partially to blame for the inflation and rising prices of goods, products and services nationwide, an issue that occurred once the world started reopening last spring.

While ports across the country are working round the clock to minimize the effect of the shortages, the shipping backlog is expected to continue in the upcoming period, experts say.

Currently, more than 25 cargo ships are anchored off the Charleston coast waiting their turn to unload at the South Carolina Ports. In February, SC Ports set the 12th new monthly record in a row and officials believe the trend will continue in March.

“As of this morning, we have about 23,000 import containers at the terminals – about 8,000 of which are 15 days or more dwell times. That’s unheard of,” South Carolina Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said. “We used to think of dwell times as three and a half to four days.”

According to Newsome, there always have been enough ports, ships and trucks to handle all of the shipping, but the pandemic disrupted that process and it will take some more time before everything gets back to normal once again.

Newsome said that Charleston ports moved 230,420 containers in February, up 26 percent year-over-year.

“Every ship that can be chartered to handle containers has been chartered. There’s not a spare ship in the world,” Newsome said. “Ships that use to be charted for $5,000 a day are being chartered for $150,000 a day.”

Initially, the problem occurred at the largest US ports on the West Coast. Since the problem took much longer than everyone expected, some shipping companies decided to look for alternatives choosing less busy ports.

Another problem for ports is the number of trucks. Newsome believes that more trucks will surely help the port’s authorities to clear the backlog. But according to the South Carolina Trucking Association, there is truck driver shortage currently which makes this problem even more complicated.

In an effort to increase the operations at the ports, in multiple occasions Newsome said the officials are constantly working to make the terminals more efficient. That said, Charleston ports are now operating longer on Sundays, they are embarking on a rail project that will be able to move containers off site quickly and they’re working on updating their chassis pool critical for moving containers.

However, the most efficient measures are long-term projects which will take more time to be implemented and that’s why Newsome believes the backlog will most likely continue to be an issue in the upcoming months.

Monica Doyle


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