FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Charleston, SC - The deepening of the Port of Charleston passed another major milestone today with the signing of a cost-sharing agreement on the next phase of the project, which has been estimated to deliver $106 million in annual national benefits.
Surrounded by members of the U.S. Congressional Delegation, as well as more than 100 business and maritime leaders, the agreement was signed by Jim Newsome, president & CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority and Lt. Col. Jason A. Kirk, Commander and District Engineer at the Charleston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).
“Charleston deepening will open the port to all classes of the world’s most modern vessels under any tidal condition,” said Newsome. “While Charleston today has the region’s deepest channels and handles ships actually drawing up to 48 feet, this project will remove the tidal restrictions associated with the larger ships serving world trade.”
Charleston’s current channel depths at low tide are 47 feet in the entrance channel and 45 feet in the inner harbor. More than 360 ships too big for the Panama Canal have already called Charleston, three years before the $5-billion canal expansion is completed in 2014. Greater than 80 percent of the ship capacity on order is for ships too big for the existing canal.
In May, the Corps included funding for the feasibility study of the Charleston Harbor post-45 foot deepening project in its Fiscal Year 2011 Work Plan.
More than 20,000 companies in several dozen states use the Port of Charleston to access global markets. These businesses ship goods worth $50 billion a year through the Charleston Customs District and pay more than $600 million in duties into the General Treasury annually.
“This project is important not only for the Port of Charleston’s customers and South Carolina, it’s essential to our nation,” said Bill Stern, chairman of the SCPA Board. “With bigger ships and expanding exports, the U.S. needs a Southeast harbor capable of handling fully-loaded post-Panamax ships under any tidal condition.”
The U.S. Congress has already authorized Charleston deepening through the study phases, and the Reconnaissance Study approved last July concluded that Charleston is likely “the cheapest South Atlantic harbor to deepen to 50 feet.”
“At a time of limited federal resources, Charleston is the nation’s best buy in harbor deepening,” said Stern. “Our delegation has championed this project in working with the leadership, the Administration and the Corps. They have all helped highlight how vital this project is to our country.”
U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint as well as state Senator Larry Grooms spoke at the signing ceremony today in Charleston.
The next step in the project is to begin the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process by planning and executing public and stakeholder meetings.
About the South Carolina State Ports Authority
The South Carolina State Ports Authority, established by the state's General Assembly in 1942, owns and operates public seaport facilities in Charleston and Georgetown, handling international commerce valued at more than $50 billion annually while receiving no direct taxpayer subsidy. An economic development engine for the state, port operations facilitate 260,800 jobs across South Carolina and nearly $45 billion in economic activity each year. For more information, visit www.scspa.com.
Photo caption: (L-R) U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, S.C. Sen. Chip Campsen, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and S.C. Sen. Larry Grooms join Lt. Col. Jason Kirk of the Corps of Engineers and SCSPA President & CEO Jim Newsome for the signing.