Friday, October 12, 2012
Catalyst: an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action.
Metglas of Conway is a catalyst for the Port of Georgetown.
The company based in Conway will be using the local port for importing some 17,000 tons of steel billets over the next year. The first ship is expected to call a month from now, on Nov. 5.
Each billet or bar of steel is 27 feet long. The company uses the billets to make metal glass alloys and components.
Dodd Smith of Metglas said his company is looking forward to using the Port of Georgetown. The steel will be brought here from Canada. In addition, other steel from Brazil which is shipped to Charleston could change to Georgetown.
Right now, the billets from Brazil are offloaded at Charleston and brought by truck to Conway. Smith hopes the Brazilian company will agree to change to smaller ships that can use Georgetown.
The “announcement is good news for the Port of Georgetown and the maritime community,” said Byron Miller. He’s vice president of marketing/sales support for the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA).
“This is a South Carolina company using South Carolina seaports, which demonstrates our port system’s vital role in recruiting and expanding business in our state.”
More than 100 people gathered at the South Carolina Maritime Museum on Front Street in Georgetown to learn about the new business for the port.
Georgetown and Horry county council chairmen, Johnny Morant and Tom Rice, worked together with their respective counties’ economic alliances. Georgetown Mayor Jack Scoville and Sen. Yancey McGill and Rep. Carl Anderson also spoke to the crowd about the significance of the new business.
Miller noted that Georgetown’s volume has doubled over the past year. From January through August 2012, 378,694 tons came through Georgetown.
For the fiscal year that ended in July, 548,919 tons passed through the port. The year before, the volume was 276,570.
What’s exciting about Metglas is not only the tonnage, but the example it sets for other businesses, Miller and others said.
Over the centuries, Georgetown has shipped naval stores, indigo, rice, cotton, lumber, pulp, steel, fish and much more.
This is the first major import cargo account in probably a decade, Miller said.
The first ship for Metglas is expected to arrive here on or about Nov. 5. It will bring in 3,000 tons of steel billets.
Smith said the Metglas plant in Conway imports supplies from all over the world, and exports to 23 countries.
A ship from Holland will pick up the steel billets in Canada and bring them to Georgetown where they’ll be stored at the SPA warehouse here. They’ll be available for “Just-In-Time” trucking to Conway, Smith said. That will be a big savings to Metglas in transportation costs.
Smith really likes the history of Georgetown. He noted it’s the third oldest town in South Carolina.
This Friday is Columbus Day, celebrating when Christopher Columbus landed in the New World on Oct. 12, 1492. Just 34 years after that, Spanish explorers made a settlement on Winyah Bay, most likely on what is now Hobcaw Barony. While the settlement didn’t last, it was the first European settlement in what is now the United States.
Along with that history, Smith said, this shipping is important for Georgetown.
“Six boats per year, 17,000 tons, is not very much, but hopefully it will catalyze more business for Georgetown,” he said.
“There’s a lot of synergy. It’s a win-win-win situation.”
Each of the speakers agreed with Smith’s assessment, adding that it should also strengthen local efforts to secure the funding for dredging the Port of Georgetown and the federal channel through Winyah Bay.
Mayor Jack Scoville noted that the one-cent sales tax referendum in November contains $5.5 million for dredging. “We need to pass that” for the dredging and other local benefits, he said.
Smith said Kevin Phillips, who handles procurement for Metglas, is planning to go to Brazil to meet with the supplier there to see if they can ship their steel billets to Georgetown, also.
“This is good for the City of Georgetown, a good catalyst, and will help with dredging,” Smith said.
By Tommy Howard