A City of Two Tales
The Charleston Regional Business had this to report on November 26th.
“In recent years, both the S.C. State Ports Authority and the Georgia Ports Authority have invested billions of dollars to upgrade their respective terminals in Charleston and Savannah.
“But officials from both states [Governors Mark Sanford and Sonny Perdue] now concede that even if they could quickly fulfill all their long-term growth goals, they’d still be unable to keep up with the surging trade volumes from China, India and other parts of the world.”
On the same day, however, the same journal reported on the annual State of the Port address given by the S.C. State Port Authority’s president and CEO, Mr. Groseclose, and it didn’t sound anything at all like the verbiage emanating from the two governors. Mr. Groseclose spoke of the drop in the amount of traffic at his port and attributed that marked reduction in TEUs to years of stymied growth, coupled with recent uncertainties in the global economy. After a record year in 2006, he reported, the SPA handled 5% fewer TEUs through fiscal year 2007, and in the first quarter of fiscal 2008, the port has handled 11% fewer containers than during the same period the year before.
He said that much of Charleston’s decline could be attributed to “a lingering perception in the world shipping community that the Port of Charleston was out of capacity or would be unable to grow to meet its future needs”.
How can those two governors speak so glowingly about the future of their ports in light of the admitted slowdown in Charleston? Simple. They’re looking in just one direction. They’re looking not at the Port of Charleston but at the Port of Savannah which reported a 14.5% gain in fiscal year 2007 over the same period a year earlier.
Confused? Don’t be. The taxpayers in those two states … not the ports … have “invested billions of dollars to upgrade their respective terminals in Charleston and Savannah” and the governors are reminding them that they need to keep up with “the surging trade volumes from China, India and other parts of the world”… and under their breaths they’re saying, “so keep the billions coming”.
And Mr. Groseclose? He expects to see some of those billions so that the port can absorb even more of the surrounding community, otherwise the port “would be unable to grow to meet its future needs”. So the port began work on a $ 600 million terminal at the former Charleston naval base.
But there may be some relief in sight for the taxpayers. The Charleston-based Coastal Conservation League has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in an effort to stop the “permitting, land acquisition, site preparation, design, construction or any other action” at that construction site and the access road. Dana Beach, the league’s executive director said that the permit review process for the port and the access road was flawed. “What we know already is enough for the project not to move forward,” he said. Stay tuned.