The Port of Charleston, SC, is taking the final steps to become the deepest port on the East Coast. On October 30, 2017, Jim Newsome, President and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA), officially announced the awarding of a second contract for the deepening of the Port of Charleston. With a previous contract awarded on September 14, 2017, the project known formally as the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project is set to begin construction soon, deepening the port’s entrance channel to 54’ and increasing the 45’ depth of the main harbor to 52’, the deepest on the East Coast.
“The awarding of the second construction contract for dredging the Charleston Harbor Entrance Channel to 54 feet is tremendous news for South Carolina,” said Newsome in Monday’s press release. “This multi-year contract, in conjunction with the contract awarded in September, provides for the construction work for the entrance channel to be completed without the potential for delays and is the largest contract ever to be awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Charleston District.”
The statement goes on to outline an estimated timeline for project completion, “Depending on full-funding, dredge availability, weather and a variety of other factors, the construction of the entire project will take 40-76 months. A timeline for the dredging of the upper and lower harbors has not yet been finalized, but is planned to take place concurrently during a portion of the timeframe required to complete the Entrance Channel.”
Potential Impact on the Industry:
The new depth of the Port of Charleston will allow access to larger cargo ships capable of carrying the equivalent of up to 14,000 twenty-foot cargo containers, regardless of high or low tide.
Newsome claims that, “based on our assessment in talking with ocean carriers, we’re thinking we’re going to have four strings of 13,000 to 14,000 (container) ships by May,” This would be a significant increase to the one visit the ports see a week from a vessel this large.
Combined with the Panama Canal expansion project that saw a third set of locks open in June of 2016, over time this initiative and others like it along the eastern seaboard could draw additional cargo to the East Coast via all-water services from Asia.