Charleston Harbor Deepening Project Receives $49 Million in Federal Funding

cosco development
The 13,000 TEU containership MV COSCO Development arrives in Charleston Harbor, Saturday, May 13, 2017, after sailing through the Expanded Panama Canal. Photo: South Carolina Ports

The project to deepen the shipping channel leading to the South Carolina’s Port of Charleston to 52 feet will receive $49 million in federal funding next year.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced the $49 million for the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project will be included in its Fiscal Year 2018 Work Plan.

Together with financial support from the State of South Carolina, the funding will help ensure the help the project stay on track for completion by early 2021.

Construction to deepen the Charleston Harbor Entrance Channel began in February following the awarding of the first two dredging contracts, totaling $260 million, by USACE.

“The deepening of the Charleston Harbor is one of the most important strategic priorities for the State of South Carolina,” said Jim Newsome, President and CEO of South Carolina Ports Authority. “The Southeast needs a 52-foot harbor to efficiently handle the large container ships now calling the East Coast. There are four other harbors on our coast at 50 feet of depth, and such large container ships call a network of ports. The deepening of major U.S. ports is a significant element of the overall investment thesis across the port industry nationwide, and by 2021 SCPA and the State will have invested over $2 billion in port infrastructure to support the growth of both population and manufacturing in South Carolina and the Southeast region.”

The USACE Work Plan funding, in combination with a $50 million loan from the State, will enable the Charleston Harbor to be deepened to the Wando Welch Terminal by early 2021, a “record” construction period of just 40 months.

The completion of harbor deepening projects is seen as essential as more and more 14,000 TEU ships are calling on U.S. East Coast ports from the opening of the Expanded Panama Canal in 2016. There’s even a “strong likelihood” that an 18,000 TEU ship service will be deployed by 2019, according to the SCPA.

“The ability to fill these large container vessels with heavy export cargo in the Southeast is critical and requires harbors of 50 feet or more in draft to remove significant navigation restrictions. Upon completion of Charleston’s deepening, the Inner Harbor will offer 52 feet of depth with a 54-feet deep Entrance Channel,” the SCPA said in a statement.

The project was designated a “New Construction Start” in the USACE Work Plan last year and received Congressional Authorization in December 2016.

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