Originally Published in the Post & Courier
Written by: David Wren Email @David_Wren_
Mar 15 2015 5:00 pm
Messier-Bugatti-Dowty, a France-based company that makes the landing gear for Boeing Co.’s Dreamliner commercial planes, is said to be eyeing plans to open a manufacturing facility at the Palmetto Commerce Park.
The company — a subsidiary of Safran SA — designs, develops and manufactures landing gear for the 787-9, which is built at Boeing’s campus in North Charleston and in Everett, Wash. Messier-Bugatti-Dowty also will make the landing gear for the “Dash 10” Dreamliner, which will be made solely in North Charleston.
The company’s plans to locate at the park will give the parts supplier better access to Boeing’s North Charleston plant, which is less than 10 miles away. The company also has a site in Everett where system components are integrated with the landing gear prior to delivery to Boeing’s assembly line.
Safran also operates the 19,500-square-foot Labinal Power Systems facility in North Charleston, which makes electrical wiring systems for the aeronautics industry.
It is not clear when the landing gear plant will open or how many people it will employ. Safran officials did not respond to a request for comments.
Hail to the rail
Charleston-based Palmetto Railways has been selected the “2015 Short Line Railroad of the Year” by Railway Age magazine.
The national award recognizes outstanding achievement in any of the following areas: innovation in operation or maintenance; turnaround situations; consistent excellence; customer service; enhanced productivity; community relations; safety improvement; ingenuity; and dealing with the unexpected.
“Short line and regional railroads are not just benefiting from the quickening economic recovery — they’re helping to drive that recovery,” Railway Age publisher Jonathan Chalon said in a statement.
Palmetto Railways, a division of the state’s Department of Commerce, moves freight at the State Ports Authority terminals and for a number of other customers, including BP’s Cooper River plant, Nucor Steel, MeadWestvaco, DSantee Cooper, Norfolk Southern and CSX. It also provides technical assistance and consulting services in railroad matters to state, local and municipal governments.
The railroad, formerly S.C. Public Railways, employs 63 workers, including a mechanical group of four employees and an engineering group of six, covering maintenance and infrastructure needs. Jeff McWhorter is president and CEO. Its offices are at 540 East Bay St.
Roughly 125,000 carloads moved across the railroad’s rights-of-way last year. Palmetto Railways anticipates 16 percent growth this year, or approximately 140,000 carloads.
Shippers head east
The now-resolved labor issues that practically shut down West Coast ports for three months has pushed some importers to move their business to the East Coast, but the logistics haven’t always been easy.
“The delays just became astronomical,” Donna Lemm, vice president of global sales for Memphis, Tenn.-based Mallory Alexander International Logistics told Bloomberg News. “It was very natural for us to move east: Savannah, Charleston.”
However, Lemm said attempts to divert cargo to the Port of Charleston and other ports did not always work well for shippers that did not have long-standing relations with carriers serving those ports.
“There was limited capacity unless you had been a customer for years,” she told the Journal of Commerce, a trade publication that covers the transportation industry. “It was very difficult to get space.”
Rodney Dickey, president of OA Logistics, told the Journal of Commerce his Livermore, Calif.-based business diverted some shipments to Charleston and Savannah, but he did not want to buy too much space on East Coast routes in future.
OA Logistics is a division of E&E Co., which imports home furnishing products. The company announced in February that it will open a 1.1 million-square-foot distribution center near the Port of Savannah to serve online customers.
The Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s busiest, handled 29 percent less cargo in January 2015 compared with the previous year and volumes were down 19 percent in Long Beach, Calif., the second-busiest port. The ports were hard hit as contract talks stalled between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and employers at West Coast ports.
Although some shippers say it still will be most cost-efficient to ship to the West Coast from manufacturing centers based in Asia and South America, many are keeping their options open,
“I don’t think shippers will ever again put all eggs in one basket,” Lemm said.
Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_