Tuesday , 28 January 2020
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The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) Board has suspended future funding related to the Jasper Ocean Terminal, seeing it as an alternative to the current proposed project to deepen the Savannah River and insufficient to handle the larger container ships that serve the US East Coast which are expected to increase with the expansion of the Panama Canal.

SCPA suspends Jasper Terminal funding

“The proposed Savannah River deepening was probably fine when first conceived in 1999 but today’s global shipping environment requires more,” said Bill Stern, chairman of the SCPA. He noted that a 15 metre (50 feet) deep channel has emerged as the minimum standard for the post-Panamax world in other East Coast ports but the Savannah River would fall short even after deepening.

For some time Stern and others have warned that the proposed Savannah River deepening project could severely delay or even kill the prospects for a terminal in Jasper.

“It’s a bad deal for the taxpayer to spend billions of dollars for a new Jasper Ocean Terminal on a last generation river,” said Stern. “That means another deepening project, beyond the one currently being reviewed, would be required.” The Board concluded that it is not feasible to build a multi-billion-dollar terminal under current and proposed conditions.

To realise a terminal in Jasper, Stern called on Georgia to join with South Carolina in requesting that the US Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for the work, consider dredging to the Jasper site as an alternative in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, noting that such a project would cost much less and generate significantly fewer environmental impacts.

The SCPA will also seek to amend the intergovernmental agreement between the states, detailing specific actions required to help the Jasper Ocean Terminal. Changes would include releasing the 50-year Federal easements on the entire site, sharing equally the costs of infrastructure, determining the navigational capacity of the Savannah River and ensuring equal dual-rail access from both major railroads.

“I hope our neighbours in Georgia share our long-term commitment to a Jasper Ocean Terminal and work with South Carolina to ensure its future,” concluded Stern.

In November container volumes in the Port of Charleston totalled 112,431 teu, up 1.5% on the same month last year, although the fiscal year-to-date (July-November) totalled 579,449 teu, down slightly (0.82%) reflecting some weakness in the US economy.