Ports Authority inland ports

SC Ports Anticipate Record Growth, Upgrades at Greer Facility

The South Carolina Ports Authority will invest $5.3 million to upgrade the 50-acre inland port in Greer, part of $263 million in upgrades to ports statewide.

The Greer port’s 70- and 80-foot cranes and jumbo-sized forklifts moved an average of 333 containers a day during the fiscal year that ended in July, according to the ports. These days, officials there said this week, they move more like 400 daily. A train departs daily at 5 p.m., and trucks roll in and out in less than 15 minutes.

The operation enables manufacturers such as BMW to store and move materials quickly to meet tight production deadlines essential in global competition. The Greer port acts as a mobile warehouse, a holding area for scores of containers full of BMW’s German- and Austrian-made engines and transmissions, said Sky Foster, the department manager for BMW Corporate Communications in Greer.

“Prior to the Inland Port and our major expansions, we stored our sea containers onsite (at the BMW plant),” Foster said in an email to The News. “The Inland Port gave us the opportunity to store our sea containers offsite and have them delivered in a Just-in-Time manner.”

Whenever BMW needs a particular sea container, the plant gives the port a call. Port workers have to locate exactly the right box, too, or production at places like BMW screeches to a halt.

“They have a 45-minute window to get the container here,” Foster wrote. “They pull the container, put it on a truck chassis, and drive it to the plant. This process has worked very well and helps us to be more efficient inside the plant.”

The scale of the operation is staggering: empty 10-foot-tall containers are stacked as much as eight high, creating an 80-foot tower of steel boxes, lined end to end for half a mile.