Port of Charleston, South Carolina-Water Gateway

Port of Charleston, South Carolina-Water Gateway

The maritime Port of Charleston was the nation's fifth busiest waterborne freight gateway for international trade by value of shipments in 2008. It ranked 12th among all land, water, and air gateways, handling $62 billion of international freight. This amount of trade represented about 4 percent of the value of U.S. international waterborne freight shipments, accounting for 5 percent of U.S. waterborne exports and 4 percent of imports (table 1).

By weight, the facility ranked 24th among all U.S. water gateways. In 2008, the port handled more than 19 million tons of freight, accounting for more than 1 percent of the total U.S. international waterborne freight tonnage (table 1). Imports through the Port of Charleston accounted for 61 percent of the tonnage and 64 percent of the value of goods in 2008. Merchandise exports accounted for 39 percent of the tonnage and 36 percent of the value. In 2008, the Port of Charleston handled more than 1.3 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units), accounting for about 5 percent of total U.S. containerized freight (table 1).

The Port of Charleston is a major gateway for imports from South American countries and exports to European countries. In 2007, Brazil was the largest origin country for imports, and Germany was the major destination for exports (table 2).1 The Port of Santa Maria, Mexico, was the largest origin point for imports. The Port of Antwerp, Belgium, was the major destination for exports in 2007 (table 3).

More than 2,100 vessels from various ports around the world called at the Port of Charleston in 2007. Of these, 74 percent were container ships, 8 percent were tankers, 4 percent were dry-bulk carriers, and 4 percent were general cargo vessels (table 4).1 The major commodities handled at the port included agricultural products, consumer goods, machinery, metals, vehicles, chemicals, and clay products.1

1 Data for 2008 are not available for weight and vessels calls. Data in tables 2, 3, and 4 are from 2007.

2 Dry-bulk ships carry homogeneous dry cargoes, such as grain, coal, steel, and iron ore.

3 South Carolina State Ports Authority website, www.scspa.com/spa/news_statistics/statistics/Statistics.asp as of Aug. 10, 2009.