Eight cranes begin work on the 13,000 TEU container ship Ulsan Express at the Georgia Ports Authority Garden City Terminal, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in Savannah, Ga. (GPA Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Savannah Completes Decades-Long Harbor Deepening Project

Mike Schuler
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March 28, 2022

Officials at the Port of Savannah have marked the completion of the Savannah Harbord deepening project.

By reducing tidal restrictions for the largerst ships transiting the Savannah River, the Port of Savannah will be able expedite the movement of cargo coming in and out of the port, serve more ships, and provide more opportunities for U.S. exporters.

Dredging of the Savannah Harbor shipping channel by an additional five feet started in September 2015 following initial feasibility studies done as early as 1997.

The Georgia Ports Authority, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Georgia Department of Transportation and dignitaries joined last Friday to mark the official completion of the project.

“After more than 20 years in the making, we are thrilled to mark this accomplishment today,” said Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority. “A deeper channel means more than just efficient passage for the largest vessels calling the U.S. East Coast. It means continued opportunity, job growth and prosperity for the people of our state.”

Deepening the Savannah Harbor to 47 feet at mean low water (the average depth at low tide) will provide enough draft for vessels carrying 16,000 or more twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs), allowing ships to transit the river with more containers each trip and during more hours of the day. Along with Savannah’s 7-foot tidal swing, the water is as deep as 54 feet at high tide.

The deeper water enables ships to load up to approximately 1,000 containers worth of additional cargo per voyage.

“That’s important to our exporters, because it means Georgia-grown and manufactured goods reach international markets faster,” said Joel Wooten, GPA board chairman. “The harbor deepening directly complements our overall mission to support growth through global commerce.”

According to an Army Corps of Engineers study, the Savannah Harbor deepening project is expected to net more than $291 million in annual benefits to the U.S., or approximately $7.70 for every dollar invested in the project.

“Complemented by unprecedented remediation efforts, the economic and environmental benefits provided through shipping efficiencies will drive healthy growth in the Southeast for decades to come,” said Col. Joseph R. Geary, Commander, Savannah District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The completion of the project comes as the Port of Savannah is handling more cargo than ever, with new monthly records set each month for the past 18 months. In 2021, Savannah moved a record 5.6 million TEU, increasing cargo volumes about 20% compared to 2020.

The Georgia Ports Authority has also announced new and existing expansion projects that will boost Savannah’s annual capacity from 6 million TEU to 9.5 million TEUs by 2025.

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