CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – South Carolina Ports Authority CEO Barbara Melvin delivered her State of the Ports address on Monday.

This year’s address shows economic growth to the tune of nearly $87 billion. But the cargo handled by the port was down a slight 10 percent. Melvin said that the decrease allowed the port to catch its breath.

“We’re watching what consumer spending is doing and we’re seeing it level off kind of pre-pandemic, so I think as we all reset what we think about as volume and spending across the globe, that is what is easily reflected in port volumes,” she explained.

For Melvin and the port, which either directly or indirectly supports one in nine jobs in South Carolina, the numbers matter. Melvin said recent success is vital but future expansion has to be viewed through a long-term plan.

“Our infrastructure is a long cycle; we can’t let two and three years throw us off of a strategic plan that allows us to grow this capacity,” she said.

Some expansion is coming – including a harbor barge system between the Wando and Leatherman terminals and the North Charleston Intermodal. Both are designed to ease congestion and are set for a 2025 opening.

“It’s coming out of the ground both from the terminal aspect as well as building supports. The buildings that will support the facility and then the Cosgrove-McMillen Overpass which will allow the trains to not interrupt passenger cars as they are entering the facility,” said Melvin.

Other projects, like the Union Pier Redevelopment, have faced pushback.

“The community clearly knows what they don’t want, and they conveyed that to us, and I think we’re now in that process of finding what we do want as a community and we’re working together to do that.”

As the calendar turns on a new year, Melvin said the SC Ports will focus on reaching more South Carolinians, expanding and celebrating both inland and marine ports, and closely watching consumer trends in order to sustain a competitive edge.

“So, workforce, building adequate infrastructure to handle all of that and you know making sure that we are really positioning ourselves as a new gateway for the United States.”