WASHINGTON: The Port of Charleston is grabbing a bigger percentage of East Coast cargo moved by rail, according to an analysis published by JOC.com, the online version of the Journal of Commerce trade publication. Charleston’s waterfront now accounts for 15.5 percent of all rail cargo moved through the four largest maritime hubs along the East Coast, according to the website. That is a 5.4 percent jump in market share since 2012, outpacing growth of 1.4 percent at the Port of Virginia. Rail cargo in Savannah has been static, with increases during some years erased by declines in others. The Port of New York and New Jersey has lost market share, with a 3.7 percent decline.
Much of Charleston’s growth is due to capturing a larger percentage than its competitors of the 39.1 percent growth in rail shipments to and from East Coast ports, JOC.com reported. Some of that increase is due to shipping lines sending cargo to the East Coast through the expanded Panama Canal instead of unloading on the West Coast for cross-country rail or truck shipments. The surge in primarily export-driven rail volume at Charleston’s container terminals roughly coincides with growth at the SPA’s Inland Port in Greer, which opened in October 2013. A record 121,761 containers were transferred between trucks and trains at the inland port in fiscal 2017, which ended on June 30 — more than double the number moved during the facility’s first full fiscal year of operations in 2015. The authority expects cargo at the inland port to grow by another 20 percent in the coming year. All told, trains now carry 22.2 percent of all cargo moving through Charleston’s container terminals. That has prompted the SPA to build a second inland port in Dillon to take advantage of rail shipments along the U.S. Interstate 95 corridor. That facility is expected to begin operations next spring.