COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — The South Carolina Ports Authority wants to use up to $550 million in state money to make improvements at the Port of Charleston.
Barbara Melvin, the chief operations officer and future CEO of the Ports Authority, spoke to a Joint Bond Review subcommittee Tuesday afternoon at the statehouse about the current state of the ports and the status of two proposed projects.
Melvin talked about the supply chain issues the country is facing. She said things remain fluid at the Port of Charleston and that there are some issues with inland transportation.
“Port capacity is truly the new currency in the supply chain,” said. said, adding that the Port of Charleston has also taken on exports that normally would be coming out of the Port of Savannah due to supply chain issues.
Ports on the West Coast and in Savannah have seen steady congestion recently Melvin told lawmakers. The Port of Charleston has not.
The state Ports Authority is laying the groundwork for a Navy Base Intermodal Facility and barge projects. Officials had requested $550 million in state support for these projects. Officials said these two projects would help connect their terminals to a rail system and help move more cargo faster across the state and Southeast.
Melvin told lawmakers that projects like this would help keep things running smoothly at the Port of Charleston. “It is an out-of-the-box solution that we need now,” she said.
State lawmakers had originally intended to use a $550 million bond bill to cover the costs. Instead, they opted to fund part of the project, $200 million, with one-time money from the state budget.
In turn, they have asked the Ports Authority to keep them updated every step of the way with NBIF and barge projects.
The Ports Authority said they need another $350 million in state funds for the project. It’s unclear exactly how lawmakers will fund that. AccelerateSC, a group led by Governor Henry McMaster, suggested using $350 million from the state’s share of the American Rescue Plan.
Melvin shared updates on possible operating costs during Tuesday’s meeting. She also said at this current rate, the projects could be completed by 2025 at the earliest.
“Given the fact we have to obligate more than $500 million in the first fiscal year, we have to have a comfort level the remaining $350 million will be appropriated to the project,” she said.