The final touches are being put to a $22m development at the port of Charleston, which has relocated ro-ro cargo operations from its Union Pier terminal to the larger Columbus Street terminal, led by growing demand for BMW exports from the carmaker’s Spartanburg plant in the South Carolina, US.
The first BMW shipments of X-series vehicles arrived by rail from Spartanburg at the end of February.
More than 110,000 vehicles were exported from BMW’s South Carolina plant last year and the company reported an export value through the port of Charleston worth $4.4 billion. In 2011, the plant is projected to increase annual capacity by 50% to about 240,000 vehicles and will continue its strong export activity. This year will mark the first full year of production of the new X3.
“BMW is a strategic customer of the port of Charleston, and this relocation to a more robust and capable terminal is essential to handle port growth,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA), which has carried out the redevelopment.
The six months of improvements to the Columbus Street Terminal, which includes additional rail infrastructure, will also mean the port can better handle more rolling stock, high & heavy equipment and machinery, as well as other non-container cargo.
Ocean forwarders handling BMW exports from the terminal have begun calling at the Columbus Street terminal, led by K-Line’s California Highway. Wallenius Wilhelmsen, Höegh Line and ARC also offer roll-on/roll-off service at Charleston.
K-Line’s Peter Menzel confirmed that the company loaded the first shipment of 844 vehicles destined for Europe from the new Columbus Street terminal on its latest vessel.
He told Automotive Logistics News that California Highway, which was delivered in December 2010, has recently been phased into K-Line’s North Atlantic Shuttle to replace smaller tonnage and cope with rising Atlantic volumes.
“As one of the major carriers for BMW out of the US, we naturally benefit largely from the rising exports, especially to Europe and China,” added Menzel.
The growth in export business at Charleston is welcome given the shift in import handling for BMW which the it lost to the port of Baltimore in March last year. Mercedes-Benz USA is now processing BMW and MINI vehicles through Baltimore under a new five-year deal between the two companies.
MBUSA is providing pre-delivery inspection services including processing and repair at its facility at the port for annual imports of 50,000 BMW and MINI vehicles.
A new cruise terminal is planned for development at the Union Pier as well as non-maritime property.