Following my retirement from the South Carolina Port Authority in 2010 and due to medical reasons Maria and I returned to the upstate of South Carolina to be closer to family and friends.
On June 30th I had the pleasure of returning to Georgetown to attend a retirement luncheon for my (then) Administrative Assistant, Donna Session’s, who was a very loyal and dedicated employee during her 26-plus years with the SCPA. It was also great to see several former fellow employees who drove up from Charleston. The luncheon provided time to present Donna with her Service Award, thank her for her dedicated service and catch up on past and current changes within the international trade community.
Following the luncheon, I was invited to ride through the terminal since I hadn’t been back since retirement. I have been keeping up with all the cargo moves, or lack thereof via the Port of Georgetown. The tour brought back memories of when the late Port Director Claude (Doc) Baker asked me to relocate in 1985 from the SCPA’s Greenville office to help revitalize the Port of Georgetown. It was such a pleasure to see business soar to 118 vessels and 1.8 million tons in 2003. Following that record year and for whatever the reason (politics) the SCPA Senior Management assisted by the Corp of Engineers lost interest in the 500-plus jobs the port supported and allowed the mandated dredging to fall apart resulting in the 27’ draft silting in to a stage of some 15 to 17 feet today.
I viewed roofs ripped from warehouses that were was once full of import cargo. And now the plan is to “do nothing” regarding any repairs. It hurt to see the result of many years of hard work reviving the port - that prior to 1985 was nothing more than a vacant facility - return to the same or worse conditions. When no one within the current management at the SCPA knows or understands how to market Breakbulk cargo or much less how to competitively price it - there’s no wonder the Port of Georgetown is again becoming a “thing of the past”.
Recently I read an article in our local paper where a proposed new owner will once again reopen the steel mill creating some 200 jobs. I truly wish them well. But it will be costlier to operate without plant side access to water transportation. Following the purchase announcement, I then read where local and state politics are now trying either to hold up the sale or prevent it from going through.
Retired director, Port of Georgetown, Veterans Terminal, Port Royal