FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Charleston, SC - Today, the final pieces of the old Cooper River bridges over Charleston's main shipping channel were removed, leaving a vertical clearance of 186 feet at mean high water.
This, along with a 45-foot-deep channel, makes Charleston well equipped to handle the larger vessels calling the U.S. East Coast under any tidal condition.
The former bridges, which date from 1929 and 1966, had a vertical clearance of 150 feet at mean high water.
“Charleston's ready today for big ships,” said Bernard S. Groseclose Jr., president & CEO of the S.C. State Ports Authority. “The new bridge and Harbor Deepening, coupled with port expansion and new equipment, ensure Charleston's place as a premier port for years to come.”
Larger ships being deployed require deeper channels as well as higher vertical clearance. There are approximately 400 vessels in service worldwide of post-Panamax size, ships too large to transit the Panama Canal.
The U.S. East Coast is beginning to see more post-Panamax vessels, especially as ships on the Asia/U.S. West Coast trade rotate out to make way for newer ships. Charleston, in fact, had the first regularly scheduled post-Panamax vessel to call the U.S. East Coast, the MSC ALESSIA, which called January 6.
Charleston's Harbor Deepening Project was completed in May 2003, bringing the inner channels to -45 feet at mean low water and the entrance channel to -47 feet. The two bridge towers are spaced 1,500 feet apart, providing future channel widening from 600 to 1,000 feet and allowing multiple ships to pass under the bridge at the same time.
The new Ravenel Bridge is the largest cable-stayed bridge in North America. Construction began in the summer of 2001. Total cost of construction totaled $644 million and the Ports Authority is paying $45 million toward the project. The bridge opened to vehicular traffic July 16, 2005.
Demolition crews removed much of the old bridges with a series of explosive charges. Crews cut and hydraulically lowered onto barges the two spans over the main shipping channel.