Port Charleston is located in South Carolina (SC), on the Atlantic coast of the USA. This major port city (population around 120,000) is located on the state's central coast, and on the estuaries where Cooper River meets Ashley River. Port Savannah (Georgia) is approx 140 km (87 mi) to the northeast, and Port Wilmington (North Carolina) is approx 245 km (152 mi) to the southwest.
Carnival Cruise Lines offer all-year-round cruises from Charleston. Ports of call on the 5-6-7-day itineraries to The Bahamas are Nassau, Freeport (Grand Bahama) and the company's private island Half Moon Cay. On 8-day itineraries is also visited Grand Turk Island (Cockburn Town). The cruise port's 2017-2018 schedule showed regular roundtrips with the ship Carnival Ecstasy. The first Carnival ship homeported in Charleston was Carnival Fantasy (since May 2010).
In 2017, the cruise port had scheduled a total of 104 ship calls. The majority of those were by the homeported here Carnival Ecstasy, operating on year-round 5-day roundtrips to Bahamas (Nassau, Freeport, Half Moon Cay). Among the new cruise ships visiting in 2017 was TUI Mein Schiff 6 (2 calls). Scheduled were transition calls from large-sized vessels of Royal Caribbean, AIDA, P&O UK. Most luxury ships visiting Charleston SC are on transition routes and most of them stay in port overnight or depart late-evening.
On September 14, 2017, South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) signed with USACE (US Army Corps of Engineers) a USD 49 million contract for the "Charleston Harbor Deepening Project".
- The contract was for entrance channel's dredging to max draft 54 ft (16,5 m). A second contract (USD 50 million) was signed for deepening port's main shipping channel (to max draft 54 ft / 16,5 m) allowing access to large container ships with max capacity 18,000 TEU-containers at Wando Welch Terminal.
- In November 2018, USACE signed USD 41,4 million contract for Charleston Harbor Deepening Project (part of FY2019 Work Plan). Entrance Channel's dredging started in February 2018. The first two USACE contracts included federal funding USD 108 million. South Carolina state funding for the project was USD 350 million, including USD 50 million loan (2018).
In addition to the deepening project, Port Charleston started a major program for upgrading its terminal infrastructure and equipment.
- The program included wharf strengthening and new equipment at Wando Welch Terminal (completed 2018) and constructing a new container terminal (Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal (completed in 2020).
- The new cargo terminal added 700,000 TEUs (annual throughput capacity) and the capability for handling 19,000-TEU boxships.
- The 3-berth terminal doubled SC Ports' current capacity by adding 2,4 million TEUs annual throughput capacity.
- The new terminal's wharf has length 427 m (1400 ft) and accommodates 5x ship-to-shore cranes (China-made, arrived in September-October 2020) plus 25c rubber-tired gantry cranes). 2020 was the last year of a 6-year / USD 2 billion improvement plan that included Charleston Harbor's deepening and Wando Welch Terminal's modernization. Following these developments, SC Ports now can handle 4x 14K-TEU boxships simultaneously.
In FY2020 (fiscal year), for the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project were allocated USD 138 million. Dredging works (to be conducted by USACE) are scheduled for completion in 2021 and will result in max draft (water depth) of 52 ft (15,9 m).
- For September 2017, SCPA reported for Port Charleston a record container shipping month volume (10% increase over Sept 2016) handling a total of 179,856 TEUs. The handled breakbulk cargo was 65,269 tons (Sept volume), while Inland Port Greer (2013-opened South Carolina Inland Port) handled 10,648 rail moves in Sept 2017.
- On October 30, 2017, SCPA approved a USD 69,5 million contract for purchasing 6x new ship-to-shore cranes to serve the port's new container terminal. The new cranes (by the Chinese manufacturer Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries) arrived in 2019. Five cranes are with lift height 169 ft (51,5 m) and installed at the new Sr Terminal (inaugurated in 2020, annual capacity 628,000 TEUs). One crane (lift height 155 ft / 47 m) was delivered to Wando Welch Terminal. This is the port's busiest container terminal, which in August 2016 received its first 2 cranes (155 ft each). Two more cranes were delivered in February 2018.
- As of 2020, Wando Welch Terminal has 9 (of planned 13) ship-to-shore cranes and pier capacity to handle two 14,000-TEU ships simultaneously.
For FY2019, South Carolina Ports Authority reported a record year with handled 2,44 million TEUs (5% increase over 2018) at both terminals (Wando Welch, North Charleston). Record numbers were reported for breakbulk cargoes (725,828 tons, 10% increase), vehicles (225,191, +4%), cruise tourists (262,776, ~24%), rail moves (190,539, +41%, at both Inland Ports / Greer and Dillon).
Since early-May 2020 is operational the Charleston Stevedoring Company LLC - a 3-party joint venture (Marine Terminals Corporation East, Ceres Marine Terminals, SSA Atlantic) that provides Port Charleston with container terminal and stevedoring services.
FY2021 (June 30, 2020-21) was SC Ports' strongest in terms of TEUs (2,55 million) handled at the three container terminals (Wando Welch, North Charleston, Hugh K. Leatherman), or 9,6% increase over FY2020.
- At Columbus Street Terminal were handled 253,981 vehicles (+27%).
- For both inland rail ports were reported 192,844 rail moves (+11,7%), including 157,842 (at Inland Port Greer/+12,6%) and 35,002 (Inland Port Dillon/+7,9%).
- Curiously, the import trade boom was due to the Coronavirus crisis as consumers’ buying habits shifted - from travel and services to retail and home goods.
- In June 2021 Port Charleston handled 128,622 TEUs (+44,5% over June 2020) and 23,096 vehicles (+60,7%).
Charleston SC cruise terminal
Charleston cruise port terminal is located at the Union Pier, in the historic district of the city's downtown. It is easily accessible via Highway 17-North, Highway 17-South, and also Interstate 26. Charleston International Airport is at approx 20 min drive distance from the terminal.
The current cruise terminal building dates from 1973. The terminal facility is operated by South Carolina Ports Authority. Long–term parking: at the terminal is available for cruise passenger vehicless only (price is USD 17 per day). Reservations for the parking are not required.
(New) Union Pier Cruise Terminal (waterfront development project)
The plan for development of Charleston cruise ship terminal includes construction of a new building. It will be located at the Union Pier's northern end. The old (southern end) part of the building will be redeveloped. The Ports Authority (SPA) will sell 0,15 km2 (0,06 ml2) Union Pier property for private development right after the completion of the new terminal. This premium waterfront area will be developed as a new neighborhood and will be of no maritime use. It will feature new streets, public parks, shops, residential homes and businesses, thus increasing the access to the waterfront.
The concept plan also includes relocating of all cargo shipping operations from Union Pier. It will serve only as cruise pier.
The new passenger terminal's construction will cost USD 35 million. Its opponents have sued in both state and federal courts. Public hearing was also called by the US Army Corps of Engineers after receiving a new federal permit for putting additional pilings beneath one of the old terminal's warehouses.
It looks like Charlestonians want the cruises, but don't want the new terminal to be located on the edge of the city's historic district. Among their major concerns are the air quality and traffic congestion. The cruise port will have to install electric ship-to-shore power to reduce air pollution by docked vessels.
(New) Luxury cruise ship anchorage since 2017
In January 2017, the city agreed to limit the per-year number of cruise vessels scheduled to dock in Port Charleston. However, it doesn't apply to Charleston Harbor.
- Smaller and luxury cruise ships will be anchored close to Fort Sumter, from where their passengers will be transported via locally provided tender boats to Patriots Point. The area is known as "Commercial Anchorage A". It is located between Fort Sumter and Crab Bank, and could suit ships with smaller capacity (of hundreds and not thousands of passengers).
- The passenger tendering service to the shore is provided by the local tour company "SpiritLine Cruises". The company has a fleet of 4 boats and serves its passengers from a dock at Patriots Point, where they board its vessels for harbor tour cruises.
- Cruise ships to Charleston visiting the port as "port of call" cause fewer problems than the homeported here larger vessels, because their passengers don't have cars to park.
Mount Pleasant (South Carolina) cruise port
The port of Mount Pleasant SC emerged as a Charleston alternative cruise port and will receive its first ship call in May 2017. As Charleston SC self-imposed the 104-vessel limit per year (seasons 2017 and 2018), the Mount Pleasant port emerged as a nearby alternative for smaller-sized and luxury cruise vessels. After anchoring here, they will tender their passengers to Fort Sumter, from where is approx 30-min bus travel to downtown Charleston.
Charleston SC tours, shore excursions, hotels
City Tours and Shore Excursions
- Fort Sumter: located in the Sullivan’s Island neighborhood. The place where on 12 April 1861 Confederate troops began the Civil War in America.
- Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon: located in the Historic District neighborhood. It is on the waterfront at East Bay Street. The white building houses the museum of the Colonial-era history in Charleston.
- Historic Churches: in the Historic District neighborhood you can visit the Circular Congregational, the French Huguenot Church and the Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (the second oldest synagogue in America). Charleston is nicknamed as the “City of Churches.”
- City Market: it is in the Historic District. Fun place to visit but try not to be tempted by all the goods there.
- Gibbes Museum of Art: located in the Historic District. You can enjoy some of the finest art collections in the South.
- South Carolina Aquarium: located in the French Quarter Neighborhood. Discover the amazing ocean life. Meet black tip shark, sandbar sharks, scalpel-tailed surgeonfish, loggerhead turtles and jellyfish.
Port Charleston SC cruise ship schedule shows timetable calendars of all arrival and departure dates by month. The port's schedule lists all ships (in links) with cruises going to or leaving from Charleston SC, South Carolina. To see the full itineraries (ports of call dates and arrival / departure times) and their lowest rates – just follow the corresponding ship-link.
|2 October, 2021|
|MS Fridtjof Nansen|
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