It’s okay when we gripe about the slowed port traffic, but it kind of smarts when the folks at the Wall Street Journal chronicle the bad times at the Charleston ports.

In recent years, Charleston has been losing market share to more innovative and aggressive East Coast ports, particularly Savannah, Ga., 100 miles to the south. From 2005 to 2006, as large retailers such as Target Corp. and Ikea began building massive distribution centers near Savannah, Charleston’s container traffic dropped 9%, followed by a 7% drop in 2007, according to U.S. Department of Transportation statistics.

“We were very proud of our status as a significant port,” said Robert New, president and chief executive of Charleston Port Services, which ties and unties vessels at the docks. “Now we’re just worried about our survival.”

Mr. New, whose company services roughly 1,800 ships a year, said he has reduced some of his employees’ health-care benefits to compensate for the drop in business in the past year.

Dockworkers are working fewer hours, or sometimes none at all. On a recent midweek morning, Marsha Youngblood went to union headquarters and was disappointed but not surprised to find no work available. She works a variety of jobs on the docks, including latching down military freight headed to the Middle East. “This is the slowest I’ve ever seen it,” she said.