SC Ports officials update lawmakers on railway and barge projects

Nation and World News

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — The South Carolina Ports Authority wants to use up to $550 million in state money to make improvements at the Port of Charleston.

SC Ports Authority Chief Operations Officer and future CEO Barbara Melvin spoke to a Joint Bond Review subcommittee Tuesday afternoon at the State House about the current state of the ports and the status of two proposed projects.

Melvin talked about the supply chain issues the country is facing. She said things remain fluid at the Port of Charleston but they’ve faced some issues with inland transportation.

She said, “Port capacity is truly the new currency in the supply chain.” She said the Port of Charleston has also taken on exports that normally would be coming out of the Port of Savannah due to supply chain issues.

Ports on the West Coast and in Savannah have seen steady congestion recently Melvin told lawmakers. The Port of Charleston has not.

The SC Ports Authority is laying the groundwork for a Navy Base Intermodal Facility (NBIF) and barge projects. They had requested $550 million in state support for these projects. Officials said these two projects would help connect their terminals to a rail system and help move more cargo faster across the state and Southeast.

Melvin told lawmakers projects like this would help keep running smoothly at the Port of Charleston. She said, “It is an out of the box solution that we need now.”

State lawmakers had originally intended to use a $550 million bond bill to cover the costs. Instead, they opted to fund part of the project, $200 million, with one-time money from the state budget.
In turn, they have asked the SC Ports Authority to keep them updated every step of the way with NBIF and barge projects.

The Ports Authority said they need another $350 million in state funds for the project. It’s unclear exactly how lawmakers will fund that. AccelerateSC, a group lead by Governor Henry McMaster, suggested using $350 million from South Carolina’s share of the American Rescue Plan to cover this.

Melvin shared updates on possible operating costs during Tuesday’s meeting. She also said at this current rate, the projects could be completed by 2025 at the earliest.

She said, “Given the fact we have to obligate more than $500 million in the first fiscal year, we have to have a comfort level the remaining $350 million will be appropriated to the project.”

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