CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Ports Authority experienced a record-breaking month in March for the thirteenth straight month. The surge in businesses comes as the Ports Authority continues to work through supply chain issues and staffing challenges.

The South Carolina Ports Authority has continued about as strong as a comeback you could ask for from COVID-19, staffing challenges, and supply chain issues topping previous records for imports and exports. Charleston Branch Pilots plays a key role in making sure ships make it in and out of port, they say things are moving full steam ahead

“This morning it looked like there were12 ships anchored offshore, I can’t necessarily classify all of them as waiting,” says Captain John Cameron, Executive Director of Charleston Branch Pilots.

Just weeks ago, more than 20 ships were waiting to get into one of Charleston’s three ports. With the number down to 12, Cameron says it’s a good sign for one of the country’s busiest points of entry.

“About two-thirds to 70% of the ships that come into the harbor are calling on Port Authority facilities so it is absolutely the lion’s share of the port calls here,” says Captain Cameron.

Charleston Branch Pilots guide ships in and out of the ports. Captain John Cameron says it’s a 24 hour, 7 days a week job. Crews often have just hours’ notice to make the 20-mile journey to where cargo ships dock until there’s room to come to port.

“Climb up the ladder, the rope ladder, go up to the bridge of the ship and through the Captain of the ship, issue commands to guide the ship in and out of port.

The hour and a half, 20-mile ride connects the Eastern Hemisphere to Charleston bringing everything from cars, supplies and goods needed in the Lowcountry and beyond.

“The Port of Charleston is one of only 15 ports in the United States that handles 95% of our nation’s international trade,” says Cameron. “It’s a vital role.”

With ships tripling in size and the Charleston Harbor reaching the deepest point ever, Cameron says it’s critical to keep training with the changing times to handle the growing business.

“Every evolution, every step in the size in ships increasing,” says Cameron. “We’ve had to go through a significant amount of training to prepare for that.”

The South Carolina Ports Authority and its partners are moving full steam ahead, paced to keep the record-breaking streak alive.

“Charleston is very well positioned to continue to be one of those vital ports in America and to grow it’s share of the national cargo,” says Cameron.

The Harbor Deepening Project, which has played a role in increasing capacities at our ports, is on track to be completed this summer making it the deepest port on the East Coast.