Ag News

Dredging complete in Savannah Harbor Expansion Project

On March 9, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that dredging in the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) was complete after more than six years of work.

The project deepened the Savannah River shipping channel from 42 feet to 47 feet and extended it an additional seven miles into the Atlantic Ocean.

According to a release from the Georgia Ports Authority, the project expedites the flow of cargo to and from global destinations by reducing tidal restrictions for mega-ships transiting the Savannah River. The Port of Savannah can now accommodate larger cargo vessels, making it more cost effective to ship cargo, including agricultural products, from Savannah to destinations around the world.

Georgia exporters now have greater opportunity to move goods overseas, because ships can take on more cargo. Additionally, faster vessel service means the Port of Savannah can handle more ships each year.

“This is a great day for the state of Georgia and for the nation,” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said during a March 25 event to celebrate the completion. “The Port of Savannah is the gateway port for our region, and the first choice of businesses serving the U.S. Southeast. Completion of our harbor deepening is a testament to a shared commitment between state and federal partners – like our previous governors and current and former members of Congress who worked tirelessly to help move this project forward – to provide the infrastructure our economy needs to thrive. Our collaborative approach to economic development is what makes Georgia the best place to live, work, and raise a family. I also want to thank the Georgia General Assembly for their valued partnership and for backing this project through many legislative sessions.”

Dredging for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project started in September 2015, adding five feet in depth to the shipping channel. Initial feasibility studies for the harbor deepening began in 1997.

“After more than 20 years in the making, we are thrilled to mark this accomplishment today,” said Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority. “A deeper channel means more than just efficient passage for the largest vessels calling the U.S. East Coast. It means continued opportunity, job growth and prosperity for the people of our state.”

According to a Corps of Engineers study, the project is expected to net more than $291 million in annual benefits to the nation, or approximately $7.70 for every dollar invested in the project.

“The Savannah District is proud to partner with the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Georgia Ports Authority in completing the deepening of Savannah Harbor,” said Col. Joseph R. Geary, Commander, Savannah District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Complemented by unprecedented remediation efforts, the economic and environmental benefits provided through shipping efficiencies will drive healthy growth in the Southeast for decades to come.”

Deepening the Savannah Harbor to 47 feet at mean low water (the average depth at low tide), provides ample draft for vessels carrying 16,000+ twenty-foot equivalent container units, allowing ships to transit the river with more containers each trip and during more hours of the day. Along with Savannah’s 7-foot tidal swing, the water is as deep as 54 feet at high tide.

The deeper water enables ships to load up to approximately 1,000 containers worth of additional cargo, for increased efficiency in vessel transport.

Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 496,700 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $29 billion in income, $122 billion in revenue and $3.4 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy.