The Port of Charleston is seeing an increase in both cargo and cruise ships.
Carnival Cruise Lines announced Monday that it will add five departures in 2016 for its Carnival Sunshine cruise ship. Those voyages will be in addition to departures by the Carnival Fantasy, which calls Charleston its home port.
Meanwhile, at the cargo docks, the port notched a 16.9 percent increase in the number of containers that moved through local terminals in February compared to the previous year, and Jim Newsome – president and CEO of the State Ports Authority – said Monday that he expects the total to top 1 million containers before the end of this fiscal year.
“February container volumes were particularly strong for a short month,” Newsome said following a meeting of the SPA’s board of directors. “Our import gains are reflective of a strengthening U.S. economy and population growth across the Southeast, while manufacturing in our state and region bolsters our export business. Loaded-box volumes last month were nearly completely balanced between imports and exports.”
In the cruise news, the Carnival Sunshine is a larger ship than the Fantasy, carrying about 1,000 more passengers and crew. It will offer cruises of between two and 10 days and will sail to ports in the Bahamas, St. Thomas, Antigua, Martinique, St. Kitts and San Juan.
Christine Duffey, president of Carnival Cruise Lines, said in a statement that Carnival Sunshine will offer “an extraordinary array of guest features and facilities,” including upgraded dining and entertainment that was part of Carnival’s Fun Ship 2.0 modernization program initiated in 2011.
Even with the additional sailings, Newsome said the port will maintain its level of fewer than 100 cruise ship departures per year.
To date, cruise ship passenger counts are down 5 percent from the previous year — to 121,270 people — due to a pair of weather-related cancellations.
The SPA has recorded $123 million in revenue this fiscal year, up nearly 21 percent from the same period a year ago. Earnings have tripled to nearly $20 million during the same time period.
Newsome said the port is entering one of its strongest stretches historically — the period of March through May — and he expects continued growth in cargo as the fiscal year winds down June 30.
The SPA’s noncontainerized business also saw increases in February. The Port of Georgetown handled 15,520 tons last month and is 5 percent ahead of its plan for the fiscal year. In Charleston, the SPA is on course to meet its break-bulk tonnage goal with 58,685 tons handled in February.
In other action during Monday’s meeting:
The board approved a contract for routine maintenance dredging at the North Charleston Terminal, which typically occurs every 12 to 15 months to preserve a 50-foot depth for large containerships.
The board approved a design modification to the two super-post-Panamax cranes on order for the Wando Welch Terminal.
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Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_