Charleston’s Post 45 Harbor Deepening Project is expected to be completed sooner and cost less, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Charleston District shared yesterday during an update to stakeholders.
According to the Corps, the deepening project’s feasibility study, initially expected to be completed in five to eight years, is now expected to be finalized in fewer than four years from now. This means that a 50-foot deepening project for Charleston Harbor can be realized within this decade, four years earlier than initial projections.
“The deepening of Charleston Harbor is the number one strategic priority for this port community,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA). “We are encouraged by today’s news that Charleston’s deepening project will be considered a national example for completing studies more expeditiously.”
The Corps also announced a cost-savings of about $5 million for the feasibility study of the project. The study is now expected to cost about $15 million rather than $20 million as previously estimated. Both the time and cost savings are the result of a new initiative launched at the headquarters level of the Corps of Engineers to streamline the civil works planning process.
“In just over one year, this project has made tremendous leaps and bounds, which is a credit to the many leaders who have advocated on our behalf,” said Newsome. “The Corps is an excellent partner and we will continue to work collaboratively to realize our deepening project, which is essential to serving the changing needs of trade, as quickly as possible.”
The deepening of Charleston Harbor to 50 feet is predicted to provide significant economic benefit to the Southeast region and the entire nation, with $106 million in net benefit to the nation estimated on an annual basis.
In February, the Administration included $3.5 million toward the project’s feasibility study in the President’s Budget for fiscal year 2013. That allocation, along with the funds already included in the Corps’ Work Plan, means that the federal share of the feasibility study is more than halfway funded.
The SCPA’s funding toward the feasibility study can be accelerated as needed to keep progress moving forward. The Corps and the SCPA signed a feasibility cost-sharing agreement in June of 2011 to officially kick off work on the study.
Last month, the South Carolina Legislature committed $300 million in the state budget to fund the construction of a post-45-foot harbor project for the Port of Charleston. This allocation could cover the entire estimated cost to deepen the harbor to 50 feet, once the project receives authorization from Congress.
With 45 feet of water at mean low tide, Charleston Harbor is currently the deepest port in the region, serving ships drawing up to 48 feet of water on the tides. Deepening Charleston Harbor would open the port to the biggest vessels 24 hours a day, under any tidal condition. The Corps stated in its Reconnaissance Study in 2010 that Charleston is likely “the cheapest South Atlantic harbor to deepen to 50 feet.”
World Maritime News Staff, July 12, 2012