Yesterday’s official signing of the partnership agreement for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) cleared all hurdles for dredging in the Savannah River to begin before the end of the year.
The deal was signed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District Commander, Col. Thomas Tickner and Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) Director Curtis Foltz. This long awaited harbor deepening project will allow larger ships to load more fully when they call on Savannah.
For the Post-Panamax II vessels, the extra five feet of depth will allow them to carry another 3,600 cargo containers in each transit (78% more). GPA’s Garden City port is the nation’s fourth busiest container port and the second busiest on the East Coast. It set a record of 3.1 million 20-foot equivalent units (standard measure for containers) passing through the port in Georgia’s financial year 2014.
According to an extensive study by the Corps, a deeper shipping channel allows larger and fewer ships to move the same amount of goods at a lower transportation cost. Unloading and reloading fewer ships would be faster, allowing goods to move in and out of the port more quickly.
Fewer, larger ships also lessen congestion in the harbor, according to the report. A deeper channel also means the ships can enter and leave with less delay waiting for high tides. The project would also generate jobs across the region, especially in Georgia and South Carolina.
Funded by the federal government and the state of Georgia, the economic portion of the studies examined the characteristics of the future international shipping fleet, harbor commerce, current and future trade routes, and the capacity of the Garden City terminal on the Savannah River. The Corps’ study also indicated for each $1 invested in deepening, the U.S. will gain a benefit of $5.50.
The earliest actions in the deepening will focus on environmental mitigation and extending the shipping channel an additional 7 miles into the Atlantic Ocean.
Some of the environmental mitigation actions include:
- installing a dissolved oxygen injection system for the harbor,
- building a fish bypass around the New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam near Augusta,
- rerouting freshwater to protect valuable wetlands in the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge
- restoring brackish marsh on Onslow Island,
- creating a fresh water impoundment for the City of Savannah’s water treatment plant, and
- recovering the Civil War ironclad CSS Georgia from the bed of the Savannah River.
The full cost of the project will be approximately $706 million, including construction and environmental mitigation costs. The state has already set aside $266 million – the total state share for the project.
October 9, 2014