In 2015, NS container traffic at the inland port outpaced its first-year volumes by more than half. NS added a second train to and from Charleston to better serve the inland port. To further enhance efficiencies, NS has worked with the Port of Charleston to streamline container movement between NS’ intermodal facility at Charleston and the port’s two marine terminals.
“The response from companies in the Upstate has been good,” said Luebbers, who has been involved with the inland port project since its conception. “We’ve seen extraordinary growth above and beyond projected estimates.”
The Eastman intermodal solution
Eastman, a specialty chemical company based at Kingsport, Tenn., began using NS’ Greer service in March 2014. Its products move mainly in 20-foot containers and include specialty plastics and wood pulp-based products bound for markets worldwide. The plastics, primarily plastic pellets, are used by manufacturers to make things such as packaging products, refillable hydration bottles, and housewares. Companies use the wood pulp-based products to make liners for high-end suits, wedding and prom dresses, and caskets, among other things.
Before NS' rail option at Greer, Eastman moved these export products by highway from Kingsport to Charleston. Eastman used a relay system in which trucks traveling from each end of the route – one with a loaded container bound for the port and the other with an empty container for return to Kingsport – met in Columbia, S.C., to exchange containers.
NS intermodal gained the business by developing a service plan that offers a similar delivery time at a lower cost, said Debbie Davis Waltermire, Eastman’s director of global logistics procurement. Now, Eastman uses trucks only on the move between Kingsport and Greer. NS’ service removes about 212 miles of truck travel from each Eastman shipment and provides next-day service for containers moving from Tennessee to the port.