CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Ports Authority is officially under new leadership. Barbara Melvin is the first woman to be named President and CEO, and the first woman to ever lead one of the top 10 operating container ports in the United States.

South Carolina ports are a leading economic engine in the state, generating 225,000 port operations jobs and over $63 billion annually. Melvin is hoping that under her leadership, those numbers will only improve.

“If we can attract an economic development prospect here by being a better port, we feel like that’s part of our job for the state of South Carolina,” Melvin said.

SC Ports has been investing in infrastructure to further that goal over the past couple of years, spending billions on rail projects and a harbor deepening project to create the deepest port on the east coast.

Melvin said that the improvements will eliminate obstacles and improve safety for vessels passing through the harbor.

“You want to be able to handle all of your customers needs [and] not have restrictions,” she said.

Melvin is also working to improve conditions for truck drivers. She said she wants to find ways to make them more comfortable, noting their vital role in the shipping industry.

Though she is coming into her new role at a difficult time given current supply chain issues, Melvin said that she is ready to take on the challenge and make necessary changes to inefficiencies highlighted by the backlog.

“It is a chain, not a rubber band. There was not a lot of flexibility, and I think long-term problems were exposed very quickly,” she said.

Some things, however, Melvin said will remain the same.

“Investments in infrastructure and operational excellence and caring for our people and really diversifying our cargo base will continue to be our pillars for our strategies moving forward.”

Melvin is well-equipped for the job. She has been with SC Ports for over 20 years, holding several senior positions throughout her career. In addition to the success she plans to bring to SC Ports, she hopes that her newest role will inspire more women to get into the industry.