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SC ports see best month in more than 7 years

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Photo - FILE - In this July 18, 2013 file photo, a container ship moves through the Charleston, S.C., harbor. The South Carolina Ports Authority announced on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 that during May 2014 the Port of Charleston handled almost 92,000 shipping containers, an increase of more than 15 percent over May of last year and the busiest month at the port in more than seven years. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith, file)
FILE - In this July 18, 2013 file photo, a container ship moves through the Charleston, S.C., harbor. The South Carolina Ports Authority announced on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 that during May 2014 the Port of Charleston handled almost 92,000 shipping containers, an increase of more than 15 percent over May of last year and the busiest month at the port in more than seven years. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith, file)
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Container volume on ships continues to grow sharply at the Port of Charleston and May was the best month in more than 7 years on the docks.

The South Carolina Ports Authority was told Wednesday the port handled almost 92,000 containers during the month, an increase of more than 15 percent over May 2013. It made the month the busiest at the port since March 2007.

Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said the figures are bit inflated because several ships called at Charleston at the very end of the month.

"I don't predict a trend out of this. We're happy about it, but I believe the future is more conservative growth due to a lot of uncertainty in the economy as far as U.S. consumption and China is sending some mixed signals now as far as growth," he said.

Still, however, the number of containers that passed through the port is up 6.5 percent for the first 11 months of the fiscal year ending June 30. The agency expects to finish the year handling about 943,000.

And, despite that economic uncertainty, the authority board approved a budget for the coming fiscal year that envisions almost $173 million in operating revenues and handling 975,000 containers.

There are other developments affecting the state's ports:

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS

—The new budget includes more than $38 million to upgrade wharves and to pave existing terminals. It also includes more than $17 million for development of the terminal at the old Charleston Naval Base expected to open in four years.

INLAND PORT

—The board approved spending just over $1 million for scales, light poles, telecommunications and other equipment for the inland port near Greer, South Carolina, that opened last year. The improvements will make loading and unloading more efficient at the port that provides a rail link to Charleston. The work begins next month and should be completed later this year.

TIRE MANUFACTURING

—The board agreed to appropriate up to $2.6 million for infrastructure for the new Giti Tire plant in Chester County. The company announced on Monday that it is building its first North American manufacturing plant in South Carolina, investing $560 million and creating 1,700 jobs. The company said the Charleston port was a key reason it chose the state.

HARBOR DEEPENING

—U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Appropriations Energy & Water subcommittee, said Wednesday the panel passed an appropriations bill with money for Charleston. The legislation contains almost $700,000 for the ongoing Army Corps of Engineers study of deepening Charleston Harbor shipping channel, $1.5 million for the deepening work itself and $13 million for ongoing harbor maintenance. Maritime interests want to deepen the channel from 45 feet to at least 50 feet to handle a new generation of larger container ships.

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