By Bill Poovey
Published Oct. 23, 2013
Operating with BMW Manufacturing Co. as its lone customer, South Carolina’s new inland port at Greer is trying to drum up business with local companies like Michelin and Adidas and is also talking to Eastman Chemical and John Deere in Tennessee. Inland Port Terminal Manager Michael Hoffman said the $47 million rail-truck transfer station handled rail shipments of cargo for the automaker in its first week.
| View of a 40-acre area at the inland port that recently started handling cargo for BMW. (Photo/Bill Poovey) |
The inland port is intended to speed international cargo shipments between the Port of Charleston, the Upstate and neighboring states. Norfolk-Southern is expected to initially move about 40,000 containers by rail through the inland port annually, and Newsome said he expects the intermodal facility will handle 100,000 lifts annually within five years.
“I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t,” he said.
Hoffman said a few containers with BMW cargo were moved through the port in its first week operating, and the next scheduled train is on Friday. Hoffman said BMW had about 160 containers delivered from Charleston to Greer last week, and “those will be coming by rail” in the future.
“That’s probably a good typical number,” Hoffman said.
He said the port will operate around the clock, six days a week.
Hoffman said SPA officials are “talking to Michelin and Adidas” and are trying to sign up John Deere in Greeneville, Tenn., and Eastman Chemical in Kingsport, Tenn. He said there are also discussions with poultry operations and cotton brokers in the Southeast.
Newsome said opening the port with BMW as its only customer is not a surprise and allows the authority to “make sure the operation works right.” Newsome also said prospective customers want to see it operating before signing on.
Imported containers arriving at Norfolk Southern’s Seven Mile Yard in North Charleston by 6 p.m. will be available at the inland port the following morning, and export boxes delivered to the inland port by 6 p.m. will be available at the Seven Mile Yard the next morning, a ports authority statement said.
Haley described the inland port as an “exciting” addition to South Carolina’s economic-development infrastructure.
“It’s all about speed to market and speed to ports,” Haley said at the inland port. She said “now it is all about selling it” to prospective customers.
The Ports Authority has 13 employees at the rail-truck transfer station, and Haley said it will create more related, spin-off jobs.
“The inland port means jobs,” she said.
BMW has expanded its export operations at a new 413,000-square-foot building adjacent to the inland port. The automaker has said the port will “service 12,000” of its sea containers annually.
The state Ports Authority, a self-supporting agency, predicts the inland link will take 25,000 trucks off the 200 miles of interstate between Greer and Charleston in its first year.