Published Dec. 16, 2013
The S.C. State Ports Authority says the $47 million S.C. Inland Port that opened two months ago in Greer has more customers than just BMW Manufacturing, but it isn’t saying who they are, and it isn’t ready to say how many. A spokeswoman for Adidas, Lauren Lamkin, said the company’s distribution operation in Spartanburg is using the inland port.
Jack Ellenberg, the authority’s senior vice president for economic development and projects, said users of the inland port are customers of Norfolk Southern and the 19 steamship lines that use Charleston, not the authority.
“We are also talking to their customers” to make them aware of the inland port, Ellenberg said. He said the inland port investment is being recovered by charging fees for each container the authority handles.
Ellenberg said BMW is not the only customer. He said “there is a blend of customers out there,” though declined to say how many.
“I can tell you we are seeing different cargo through there,” Ellenberg said. “I am not in position to identify specific companies at this time.”
While rail service started in October for BMW, construction at the 91-acre rail-truck transfer facility is continuing.
Ellenberg also said the authority is “pleased with the direction we are going” at the inland port, which is intended to speed international cargo shipments among the Port of Charleston, the Upstate and neighboring states. S.C. State Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome has said Norfolk Southern, which has a contract as the only rail company using the inland port, expects to initially move about 40,000 containers through the facility annually and increase to 100,000 lifts annually within five years.
Authority and railroad executives, while refusing to publicly discuss rates, have predicted the inland port located 212 miles from the Charleston docks will reduce interstate truck traffic while providing a cheaper alternative for some companies. 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.
BMW Manufacturing at Greer is relocating its export operation from Duncan to a new, $20 million building adjacent to the inland port. The 413,000-square-foot building is located on property owned by the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport and is expected to begin handling shipments in January. Duncan-based Syncreon manages the automaker’s warehousing and logistics operations, preparing shipments of parts and components to markets such as Russia, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Egypt.
Norfolk Southern Railway Co. spokesman Robin Chapman said in an email response to a question about the inland port that “there are other customers, but I don’t have numbers I can give you.”
“For competitive reasons, it’s not our practice to identify individual customers at the facilities we serve,” Chapman said in an email.
Rick Todd, president of the S.C. Trucking Association, said he is seeing an aggressive, national marketing campaign by the authority for the rail-truck transfer facility but has not heard of any trucking companies losing or gaining business due to clients using Norfolk Southern.
“They are marketing like crazy,” Todd said. “They are doing it like it ought to be done.” He said some companies might not want to be identified as inland port customers.
The authority board at its meeting Monday reported that activity is growing at the inland port. Newsome said the inland port is open 24 hours a day, six days a week, and roughly five to nine trucks are there every hour of every day.
Authority executives said in October that they were talking to companies like Michelin and Adidas in South Carolina and Eastman Chemical and John Deere Power Products in Tennessee. Michelin is not using the inland port, a spokesman said in an email Monday. A spokeswoman at Eastman Chemical in Kingsport, Tenn., said no decision has been made about using the Inland Port, but discussions are continuing. Representatives of John Deere did not return messages seeking comment.
Authority spokeswoman Erin Pabst said the authority’s marketing effort, in addition to prospective cargo customers, is “also talking with companies about the opportunity to locate their facilities near port in order to grow our cargo base.” She said the railroad and steamship lines are also marketing the facility.