SC Ports Logo

176 Concord Street, P.O. Box 22287, Charleston, SC 29413-2287
Contact: Erin Dhand, Manager, Corporate Communications and Community Affairs
Telephone: 843-577-8121 • Fax: 843-577-8127 • e-mail:


Charleston Harbor Deepening To Be Completed Sooner, Cost Less

Charleston, SC - 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 today 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."

About the South Carolina Ports Authority:
The South Carolina 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 $58 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

For more information:
  Allison Skipper, APR
  Manager, Public Relations

What South Carolina Leaders Are Saying...

Congressional Delegation:

"I'm very pleased the Army Corps has revised the deepening timeline and made adjustments which allow Charleston Harbor deepening to be completed sooner and at lower costs. Today's announcement is a step in the right direction, but there is more that needs to be done. We still need a national vision that ensures Charleston, and other ports, are ready to meet the biggest change in international shipping in the last hundred years.  So while I appreciate today's announcement, I also know Congress has to step up and provide the regulatory relief and funding we desperately need to push this process forward. Time is of the essence and we have to get this done." 
-       Sen. Lindsey Graham (R)

"Today's news is an important step forward and I commend the Port leadership and the Corps for working together to lower costs and avoid delays. The Charleston port is a clear national priority that is best-suited to accommodate future shipping needs. Our state legislature has proven that South Carolina is ready and willing to commit the resources necessary to make the Charleston port post-Panamax ready. And at the federal level, we must continue to streamline the study and construction process, reduce unnecessary regulatory hurdles, and ensure a merit-based, transparent project selection process."
-          Sen. Jim DeMint (R)

"I welcome today's announcement that the Army Corps has streamlined both the timeline and the cost of the deepening of the Charleston Harbor.  The Panama Canal will be sending mega-ships through its channels in roughly two years, and we need to make every effort to bring the Charleston Port online to accommodate those massive cargo ships as soon as possible to remain competitive.   We have made great progress in moving this project forward in the past year, and I will continue to work with the Obama Administration, the Ports Authority and our Congressional delegation to see the port project through to completion without delay." 
-          Congressman Jim Clyburn (D-District 6)

"This is fantastic news for the state of South Carolina. The Port of Charleston is such a valuable asset for the entire state, and an economic engine for Upstate communities. The Port is also a great incentive for businesses to relocate here or expand operations. I was pleasantly surprised to see both the cost estimates and completion times come back better than expected. A strong and competitive port is vital for putting South Carolinians back to work."
-          Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-District 3)

"The port is indispensable to South Carolina's economy and the deepening of our port makes the most strategic and economic sense."
-          Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-District 4)

"This is certainly great news for Charleston - anytime we can make projects move faster and more efficiently it is a win for all parties involved," Scott said. "The Port of Charleston has proved time and again its importance to our economy, and this will allow it to be an even stronger competitor for new shipments coming through the expanded Panama Canal."
-          Congressman Tim Scott (R-District 1)

"The Deepening Project of the Charleston Port expansion is extremely important to South Carolina as well as the Southeastern United States's economies.  Not only will this project create jobs and promote economic growth, it will be conducted in a much more cost-efficient and time-sensitive fashion. I am pleased with the announcement by the Army Corps of Engineers and look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure this project's completion."
-          Congressman Joe Wilson (R-District 2)

State Leaders:

"I have always said that on its merits the Charleston harbor was second to none, that those merits - and hard work - would make sure our dredging project happens, and that Charleston, South Carolina will have the most vibrant deepwater port on the east coast.  We are excited the Army Corps has recognized the value of a deep Charleston port and pushed up the project date - a huge win for our economy and South Carolina as a whole - and we're not going to stop working with Washington to make this process stronger, smoother, and ultimately, faster." 
-          Governor Nikki Haley

"Today's announcement, and the earlier announcement of plans for an inland port, represent two of the most important economic development events that I can recall. Once accomplished, they will ensure our state's ability to compete for jobs globally well into the future."
-          Sen. Hugh Leatherman, Chairman, Senate Finance Committee (R-Florence)

"This is an incredibly exciting week for South Carolina.  On Monday we made the announcement about a new inland port in the Upstate and today the Corps brings this wonderful news.  It shows commitment to a better South Carolina.  It shows the Corps believes the State's investment in the deepening project is the right thing to do. When you also account for the port's current growth, what it means is that South Carolina is locked in, that the Palmetto State will remain a powerhouse in the global marketplace.  More importantly, it means more jobs and better opportunities for folks across the state."   
-          Sen. Larry Grooms, Chairman, Review and Oversight Commission on the South Carolina Ports Authority, Chairman, Transportation Committee (R-Berkeley)

"The Port is a major artery in the flow of the lifeblood of South Carolina; its health and vitality contribute to the economic well-being of the entire state. The improved competitiveness of the Port of Charleston through this deepening project will benefit farmers and businesses exporting their goods to markets around the globe."
-          Sen. Danny Verdin, Chairman, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee (R-Laurens)

"A quicker, more economical Charleston Harbor deepening study reflects what Charlestonians have known for centuries.  Charleston is the finest natural harbor on the East Coast.    This blessing of geography - when coupled with our business-friendly leadership and outstanding port operations - is a competitive advantage in the battle to become the Southeast regional hub in a post-Panamax world." 
-          Sen. Chip Campsen (R-Charleston)

"Deepening the harbor means that more jobs will be created in our community and throughout South Carolina. Making this happen even sooner is great news for all South Carolinians."
-          Sen. Robert Ford (D-Charleston)

"This is a great day for the Port of Charleston and all businesses across our state.  On the heels of the General Assembly appropriating the full project cost of $300 million to deepen the Charleston Harbor the Corps today announced a reduced cost and expedited time line for the completion of the environmental impact study.  This is exciting news and on behalf of South Carolinians in the upstate, we look forward to 2020."
-          Rep. Brian White, Chairman, House Ways and Means Committee (R-Anderson)

"I am pleased with the Corps' announcement today.  It  proves that the General Assembly did the right thing when we voted to fully fund the harbor deepening project in this year's budget. This reaffirms that funding this project upfront was necessary to get this project moving forward as expeditiously as possible so we will begin to realize the benefits more quickly. I look forward to Charleston being a true post-Panamax harbor in this decade, as it is the only natural deep water port in the region."
-          Rep. Jim Merrill, Vice Chairman, Review and Oversight Commission on the South Carolina Ports Authority (R-Berkeley)

"The news that the Port of Charleston deepening will happen sooner than expected and cost less is truly a "win" for South Carolina's economy. Without a doubt, deepening the Port will benefit companies throughout our state and help South Carolina better compete for new jobs and corporate investment. I thank my fellow members of the General Assembly who voted to fully fund harbor deepening in this year's state budget, paving the way for this critical project to move forward."
-          Rep. Bill Sandifer, Chairman, Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee (R-Oconee)

"I wholeheartedly support the South Carolina Ports Authority's efforts to shorten the timeline and reduce the cost of harbor deepening and I think today's announcement is a great step in that direction. I feel it is too risky to rely on our federal government to make quick and logical decisions when it comes to this issue. I would urge all parties involved to continue to work diligently for a hasty completion of our deepening project and together we can look for more ways to continue to shorten the timeline. Deepening of the Charleston Harbor is the number one economic priority for the State of South Carolina."
-          Rep. Chip Limehouse (R-Charleston), Chairman, Charleston County Legislative Delegation

"Today's announcement is great news for South Carolina. The General Assembly has committed to fully fund the deepening project, and the Corps has responded in-kind with a  more cost-efficient and streamlined plan.  The Corps should be commended for their efforts, and we look forward to realizing all of the benefits that this vital engineering project will bring to our state."
-          Rep. Kenny Bingham (R-Lexington)

"The Port of Charleston is vital to our state. Deepening our harbor will make sure that we remain competitive and continue to create jobs in our area. I applaud the Corps of Engineers for recognizing the importance of this project, and how important it is to make it happen as soon as possible."
-          Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D-Charleston)

"As announced by the Corps of Engineers, it is great news for all South Carolinians to learn that the deepening of the port will not only cost less but also will be finished earlier than originally planned. This announcement proves that cooperation between federal and state agencies can benefit South Carolina. Saving time and money will give the South Carolina Ports Authority an advantage over our competitors in Georgia and strengthen our push for economic growth in South Carolina."
-          Rep. Harry Ott (D-Calhoun)

"I am happy with the Corps' announcement this morning. This proves that the General Assembly's commitment to fully fund our harbor deepening in this year's budget is helping in our efforts to make this project a reality."
-          Rep. Murrell Smith (R-Sumter)

Local Leaders and Business Community:

"Charleston has always had a rich maritime history, and today our port is our region's biggest economic engine. I have said before, and still firmly believe, that the deepening of Charleston's harbor is critically important to our community, our region, and our state's economic success. I thank President Obama and Vice President Biden for helping the Corps of Engineers streamline their process to ensure that our port will live up to her fullest potential as soon as is possible."
-          Mayor Joe Riley, City of Charleston

"The SCMA is very pleased to see the Corps of Engineers' announcement of the shorter timetable for the completion of the Charleston Port deepening project. There is no infrastructure project in South Carolina that has a higher priority for the manufacturing sector. Our ability to grow and to create more high-paying jobs depends upon the deepening of our port. Additional access to global commerce that the deepening project will bring means long-term economic opportunity and prosperity for all citizens of South Carolina."
-          Lewis F. Gossett, President and CEO of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance

"The business community is pleased with this morning's announcement by the Corps of Engineers.  Completing the harbor deepening project as expeditiously as possible and at a reduced cost is of critical importance to all companies in our state that do business through the port.  This announcement is a tremendous step in a positive direction for our state and the Southeastern region."
-          Otis Rawl, President and CEO, South Carolina Chamber of Commerce

"South Carolina's maritime community is pleased that this project will be considered a national example for completing critical port infrastructure projects more quickly. Charleston's deepening project is a prime example of using public resources wisely to benefit the state, the region and the nation."
-          Pam Zaresk, President, Maritime Association of South Carolina

"As the deepest harbor in the South Atlantic and the only Southeastern port efficiently handling fully loaded post-Panamax vessels, the Port of Charleston offers our region and state significant competitive advantages. This tremendous example of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Port working together to deepen Charleston's harbor four years earlier than expected, demonstrates to the world that the Charleston region truly offers a globally competitive, business-friendly environment."
-          David Ginn, President & CEO, Charleston Regional Development Alliance

"This is great news for our region and our state.  There is no infrastructure project more critical to our state right now than the deepening of Charleston's harbor.  The harbor deepening is a next generation project for our state.  It will position our region and our state for the future.  We commend the US Army Corps of Engineers for their efforts to expedite the study process."
-          Bryan Derreberry, President and CEO, Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce