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South Carolina Ports Authority advances purchase of WestRock site in North Charleston

The South Carolina Ports Authority plans to buy a 280-acre industrial waterfront property next to the North Charleston Terminal to expand port capacity at the Port of Charleston.

A unanimous vote from the S.C. Ports Board of Directors Tuesday pushed the purchase of the former WestRock paper mill site forward, and S.C. Ports officials believe the deal will close as soon as it is "practical."

"The tremendous backing from our state and an excellent partnership with WestRock allows us to make investments today that will support our state's economy and create opportunities for future generations of South Carolinians," said Barbara Melvin, S.C. Ports' president and chief executive officer. "We are adding significant port capacity to support growth in South Carolina and throughout the Southeast."

With the estimated 280-acre property, S.C. Ports officials said it will be able to handle more cargo for port-dependent businesses in the area. The additional land will also expand the terminal's capacity, with hopes of handling 5 million containers.

S.C. Ports also has plans to modernize the North Charleston Terminal with upgraded cargo-handling equipment and increased container capacity.

Wrapped within the modernization process is the South Carolina Department of Transportation's commitment to expanding Interstate 526 and replacing the Don Holt Bridge, removing the height constraints for larger vessels.

"South Carolina Ports is widely known as a top driver of our state's booming economy, but that success doesn't come by accident -- it takes timely, strategic investments like this one," Gov. Henry McMaster said. "Every time we invest in port infrastructure, we see significant success at port-dependent businesses and new, good-paying jobs for our people. Our state's investment in the expansion of North Charleston Terminal will yield dividends and create opportunities for future generations."

There are also plans to deepen the North Charleston Terminal, intending to reach 52 feet. The United States Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District, plans to undertake a feasibility study for the project, which, if approved, will add 5 feet to the Cooper River.

The goal is to have the biggest container ships that reside in the Port of Charleston to have seamless access to the North Charleston Terminal.

"The paper mill site has been in the fabric of our community for decades, helping support many generations of North Charleston families, including my own," said Reggie Burgess, the North Charleston mayor. "As it transitions into a port terminal, we are eager to collaborate closely with South Carolina Ports to guarantee this site continues to be a cornerstone of economic vitality, all the while seamlessly integrating into the community."

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