Gov. Nathan Deal today announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed outer harbor dredging at the Port of Savannah, marking the midpoint of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP).
"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 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.
"Deepening the port, along with other investments to create the nation's strongest statewide logistics network, will make American exports more competitive abroad and benefit businesses in every corner of the state. Georgia is currently investing $1 billion per year in transportation projects to widen interstates, add truck-only lanes and improve trucking routes between ports and interstates so that cargo may move across our state and the Southeast faster, without adding to traffic congestion. Just as we have been ranked the top state in which to do business for five consecutive years, Georgia will continue to make investments that will help us lead the way in transporting goods to the global marketplace."
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 in a timely manner.
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."
Deepening the harbor will allow Neo-Panamax vessels to take on heavier loads and transit the Savannah River with greater scheduling flexibility. Larger vessels also burn less fuel than multiple smaller ships, allowing for additional cost savings by using larger vessels. By reducing transportation expenses for American producers, the larger, more efficient ships reduce the cost of delivering goods to foreign markets.
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).