Timeline - SC Ports Authority

The History
Of The Port

See where we’ve been and how we’ll be Keeping Freight Moving in the future.

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1670

150 English colonists, indentured servants and slaves sailed into the Charleston harbor.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991; Great Seal of the Lords Proprietors (www.palmettohistory.org)

1682

Charles Towne on the peninsula was declared the port of entry for the colony.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1690

Colonists successfully grew small amounts of the grain in the Charlestown colony by 1690.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1720 - 1739

Royal Governor John Glen noted export of 264,788 barrels of rice, or 44,081 tons which rose to 499,525 or 99,905 tons, increase of 126% by 1739.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1744

Eliza Lucas Pinckney’s first crop of indigo.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1747 - 1775

The colony produced 135,000 pounds of indigo for export. By 1775 indigo dye exports increased to 1,176,000 pounds.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1782

Tobacco was being grown in small quantities, and in the 1790s, almost 10,000 hogsheads (large barrels), were shipped from Charleston.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1783

British subsidy of indigo ended, and was no longer grown as a cash crop in the state.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1783 - 1808

This period represented the peak period of the international slave trade in Charleston when primarily West Africans were brought to Gadsden’s Wharf.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1820

Decline in agricultural prices spawned what was to become a general depression throughout the south.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1827

Charleston merchants persuaded the state legislature to charter the “South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company” to investigate the feasibility of a rail road system connecting Charleston with inland markets and a canal between the Ashley and Savannah Rivers to divert from the Savannah River to Charleston.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1830

The Best Friend of Charleston made its inaugural trip on Christmas Day 1830, becoming the first steam locomotive in the US to establish regularly scheduled passenger service.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991; Photo is replica built in 1928 to recognize the S.C. Canal and Rail Road Co.’s 100th anniversary.

1830 - 1833

South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company operated its first 6-mile line from Charleston railroad built from Hamburg on the Savannah River to Charleston, but the city of Charleston would not allow tracks to be laid on the wharves. George Rogers wrote, “All freight must be transshipped to wagons and hauled to the docks. The advantage of bypassing Savannah was thus lost in the city of Charleston herself.”

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1861 -1865

During the civil war period, South Carolina’s economy was devastated, and the city of Charleston, its docks, and ships in ruins.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1868

First export of 4,000 tons of phosphate, and the fertilizer industry boomed during the last ½ of the 19th century.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1878 - 1897

The federal government spent $3.6m to build twin stone jetties to protect the harbor.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1880

Cotton made a strong resurgence in the post-war era -- nearly 1.5 million bales per year exported. Tobacco was reintroduced and continues to be a major agricultural crop. This would continue for 20 years until the devastating invasion of Boll Weevils from the south of Mexico.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1882 - 1883

The first unit of Columbus St. Wharf as a commercial terminal was built in 1882, primarily for the purpose of handling freight from the Clyde and Quintard lines.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1890

East Shore Terminal Company, the precursor to the Charleston Terminal Company, was formed by a syndicate of outside railroad investors.

Source: Wikipedia

1901

Charleston was chosen as the site for the only first-class navy yard between Hampton roads VA and San Francisco.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1903

the tracks, wharves, and warehouses of the East Shore Terminal company were sold at foreclosure, and the Charleston Terminal Company was formed. It was co-owned by Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and Southern Railway.

Source: Wikipedia

1916

During World War One as a result of the Naval Appropriations Act, the channel was dredged to a depth of 30 feet. The Ports deep draft warships guaranteed that the channels would be maintained at warship depth which was key to the later commercial development of the harbor.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1920

After his inauguration, Charleston Mayor John Grace immediately began transferring responsibility of the port facilities to the city of Charleston. In March 1920, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an act "to authorize cities having a population of fifty thousand inhabitants or more to acquire, purchase, establish, improve, maintain, and operate the port utilities of such cities." A month later, the Charleston City Council denied the Charleston Terminal Company's formal request for a renewal of their franchise.

Source: Wikipedia

1920 - 1926

Gross tonnage through the port doubled from 1.5 million tons in 1922 to a peak of 3.03 million in 1926, and dollar value increased from $109million to $209 million.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1921

The city of Charleston proceeded to purchase the dock facilities from the Charleston Terminal Company for $1.5 million. In a special election on November 8, 1921, Charlestonians voted in favor of the issuance of $2.5 million in municipal bonds in order to pay for the purchase of the port properties. This became the Port Utilities Commission (PUC)

Source: Wikipedia

1929

Stock market crash devastated the port’s trade volumes. The great depression dealt a near-lethal blow to the port, with traffic and revenue dropping off sharply.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1941

The State Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 711 was introduced, which established a 3 man committee to investigate the cause of shrinkage of waterborne commerce through the port of Charleston. Their report determined that the City of Charleston was no longer able to provide the necessary facilities in order for the port to stay in its rightful position as one of the best natural ports on the Eastern Seaboard.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

March 5, 1942

The SC General assembly approved Act No. 626 creating the SC State Ports Authority.
First board of directors, appointed by Governor Jefferies:
James Henry Hammond (Columbia), Howard Ellis Danner (Beaufort), Cotesworth Pinckney Means (Charleston), Herbert Lee Smith (Georgetown), Milton Alfred Pearlstein.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

May 16, 1942

First headquarters were located on the second floor of 5 Exchange St., where board members guided the SPA through its first stormy and crucial decade.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

January 15, 1943

SCPA’s first annual report to the Governor and general assembly stated “it was early realized that because of the war and incident cessation of the building of any nature, other than that directly connected with the war effort, our program must, or necessity, be geared to and tied in with the defense program" (page 34).
The authority used the period of the war to lay plans and to inform itself as to traffic potentials, proper goals, and effective methods of operation.

Source: Summary of activities of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1942-1955 by South Carolina State Ports Authority

December 3, 1945

SCSPA secured permits from the Army to operate the North Charleston Terminal (formerly the U.S. Army Port of Embarkation Terminal).

Source: Summary of activities of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1942-1955 by South Carolina State Ports Authority

March 17, 1947

City of Charleston turned over title to Columbus St Terminal, Union Piers 1 & 2, Union Public Warehouse, Adgers Wharf, 1 Vendue Range.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1948

Due to neglect, SPA stopped using all steam locomotives and converted the railway to diesel operation.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1949

While the first chairman, James Hammond served less than a year, the second chairman, Arthur Simons, saw Charleston’s maritime commerce rise steadily from 1943 to 1949, moving from 57th in rank of US ports to 14th among the nation’s ports in overall trade.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1950s

Columbus St terminal’s pier extended to 1,495 feet, making it possible to berth 3 ships at a time.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1960s

Total cargo tonnage through the 3 ports (Charleston, Port Royal, and Georgetown) grew from 770,000 tons in 1960 to 2.2 million by the end of the decade.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

March 12, 1966

First containership to call Charleston was the Sea Land Gateway City, at Columbus St Terminal.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1970

SCPA appeared before the State budget and Control Board to ask approval for a minimum of $32 million for a 3 phase expansion of the ports. Funds were authorized by the SCPA for planning for expansion east of the Cooper River.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1971

SCPA hired W. Donald Welch as first ever Executive Director.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1972

SCPA purchased the Wando property from Georgia-Pacific Investment Company.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1975

SCPA received the President’s “E” Award for excellence in the promotion of export trade. The E-Award flag still flies on the flagpole outside of the main office building.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1976

SCPA has total of 4 container cranes at NCT and CST, joined four year later by 4 custom-made Canron cranes.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1980

Because the US Army Corp of Engineers could not dredge the new channel in time, the SCPA had to have the work done itself, in addition to construction of an access road.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

October 15, 1981

SCPA approved contract amendments allowing two steamship lines to operate at the new terminal. Maersk Line shifted its operations from CST, and OOCL, in consortium with Dart Container Line, was also granted permission to use the new facility.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

November 12, 1981

First container ship to call the Wando Terminal was the DART ATLANTICA.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1982

Export cargoes moving via SCPA facilities increased more than 96% from 1975, from 1.48 million tons to 2.91 million tons. SCPA also received the President’s “E-Star” Award, the country’s highest honor for continuing success in the promoting of exports.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1982

Deployment of ORION, the SCPS’s propriety computer system developed to facilitate the flow of information between freight forwarders, customs brokers, trucking lines, ocean carriers, US Customs, USDA, and the SCPA. SCPA was the first US port to successfully bring the waterfront and shipping communities into the computer age.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

May 12, 1982

Wando Terminal was dedicated and a celebration was held in conjunction with the SC International Trade Conference.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1984

Shipping Act of 1984 deregulated international shipping, essentially allowing steamships lines to better able control cargo flow from origin to destination.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1989

SCPA approved completing Phase III construction at the Wando Terminal a full container terminal to meet cargo and steamship line growth.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1989

During Hurricane Hugo, the Port closed but reopened quickly. As a result, a monster crane was destroyed and container cranes were damaged.

Source: History of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, 1991

1995

The 1st BMW shipment in March 1995, with 11 cars exported.

Source: SCSPA's unreleased, untitled book about the history of the SCSPA

1996

The Navy Base closed.

Source: SCSPA's unreleased, untitled book about the history of the SCSPA

1997

SCPA acquires property at the southern end of Daniel Island.

Source: SCSPA's unreleased, untitled book about the history of the SCSPA

2002

SCPA secured former Navy base property for terminal development.

Source: SCSPA's unreleased, untitled book about the history of the SCSPA

2003

The Veterans Terminal opened for project cargo while the South Carolina Farm Bureau officially closes the state’s only grain export facility in Charleston, SC.

Source: SCSPA's unreleased, untitled book about the history of the SCSPA

2005

Wando Terminal renamed Wando Welch Terminal after longtime port director Don Welch.

Source: SCSPA's unreleased, untitled book about the history of the SCSPA

2005

The Ravenel Bridge opens.

Source: SCSPA's unreleased, untitled book about the history of the SCSPA

2009

1st major contract - $50 million - let for construction of navy base container terminal.

Source: SCSPA's unreleased, untitled book about the history of the SCSPA

2010

Plans announced for new cruise terminal at north end of Union Pier.

Source: SCSPA's unreleased, untitled book about the history of the SCSPA

2012

Two container cranes moved from CST to WWT.

Source: SCSPA's unreleased, untitled book about the history of the SCSPA

2016

New Postpanamax cranes arrive at WWT and the remaining container cranes are removed from CST.

Source: SCSPA's unreleased, untitled book about the history of the SCSPA

December 10, 2016

The United States Senate passed S.612, the Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation Act (WIIN), which included Congressional authorization for the 52-foot Charleston Harbor Deepening Project.

Source: SCSPA's unreleased, untitled book about the history of the SCSPA

2017

South Carolina Ports Authority announced a record container volume of nearly two million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) handled in 2016.

Source: SCSPA's unreleased, untitled book about the history of the SCSPA

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11.08.2017

Today South Carolina Ports Authority reported its strongest October on record, with 184,804 twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) handled last month.

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