NOVEMBER 14, 2012 — Scheduled for completion in 2015, the expansion of the Panama Canal will allow the transit of ships with drafts of as much as 50 ft. With that in mind, ports on the U.S. East Coast are gearing up to be Post-Panamax ready. One such port, the Port of Savannah, just got the green light to dredge a whole lot deeper.
Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy issued the Record of Decision on Oct. 26, approving the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP). The project will deepen the harbor to 47 ft and is expected to improve general navigation, with wider channel turns and a larger turning basin.
“The Record of Decision affirms that this is a project of national significance,” says Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) Executive Director Curtis Foltz, who went on to say that reaching the milestone was years in the making. The administration’s approval for SHEP comes after 16 years of study and collaboration between GPA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and other federal and state agencies, along with non-governmental stakeholders.
A study conducted by the Corps of Engineers concluded that the deepening of the harbor will lower shipping costs for containerized trade by $213 million annually over the next 50 years—a total economic benefit of $10.65 billion. Additionally, decreased costs per container will lower the bottom line for the 21,000+ U.S. businesses, and thousands of international businesses that ship via the port.
Georgia has already committed $181.1 million towards estimated project cost $652 million. With the Record of Decision issued, federal construction funds can now be appropriated to move the project forward.
The Port of Savannah is the fourth busiest port in the U.S. It was the second busiest U.S. container port for the export of American goods by tonnage in FY 2011. Additionally, it handled 8.1 percent of the U.S. containerized cargo volume and 11.6 percent of all U.S. containerized exports in FY 2011.
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