Port of Savannah Harbor Deepening Project Reaches Halfway Point

Savannah Harbor Deepening Reaches Halfway Point
The container ship COSCO Glory, with a capacity of 13,100 twenty-foot equivalent container units, passes the dredge Padre Island as it works the Savannah Harbor entrance channel, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, in Tybee Island, Ga. Credit: Georgia Ports Authority/Stephen Morton

The project to deepen the navigation channel leading to the Port of Savannah has reached its halfway point with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completing the outer harbor dredging, one of the key components of the project.

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) will deepen the Savannah River to 47 feet at mean low water, allowing Neo-Panamax vessels coming through the Expanded Canal to take on heavier loads and transit the Savannah River with greater flexibility over tide schedules. 

The first half of the project deepened the outer harbor to 49 feet at low tide (56 feet at high tide). The inner harbor channel will be expanded from its current low-tide depth, 42 feet, to 47 feet (54 feet at high tide).

“The completion of outer harbor dredging marks the midpoint for SHEP and represents a crucial milestone for the Savannah community, the State of Georgia and the nation as a whole,” said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. “The Port of Savannah is already the second busiest port in the nation for exports and the timely completion of this project will be a major step forward for our nation’s infrastructure. To ensure that SHEP remains on schedule, my FY 2018 budget proposal calls for $35 million in additional support for the project.”

SHEP recently received $49 million in President Trump’s FY 2018 budget request to Congress. Georgia’s congressional delegation is working to increase funding to $100 million per year, the amount needed to complete the project on schedule. 

The project is scheduled for completion in 2020, according to the Georgia Ports Authority’s website. 

Port of Savannah, the fourth busiest container terminal in the U.S. behind Los Angeles, Long Beach and New York-New Jersey, is comprised of two modern, deepwater terminals: Garden City Terminal and Ocean Terminal.

A study by the Corps of Engineers estimates that once the project is complete, the deepening of the harbor will result in a net benefit of $282 million in transportation savings for shippers and consumers per year. According to the Corps’ benefit-to-cost ratio, each dollar spent on construction will yield $7.30 in net benefits to the nation’s economy.

“From a business perspective, any time you can find an opportunity where every dollar delivers that kind of return, it’s an investment worth making,” said Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) Board Chairman Jimmy Allgood. “That’s a massive benefit for taxpayers, unmatched by any other maritime infrastructure project in the country.”

Over the next 10 years, GPA will invest approximately $2 billion in new cranes and terminal infrastructure to handle expanding cargo volumes.

“In Georgia, we’re making the investments necessary to support U.S. producers well into the future,” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch. “Similarly, the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is crucial to keep U.S.-made products competitive globally, because the heavier goods require deeper draft to take advantage of cost savings from Neo-Panamax vessels.”