President Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget includes US$138m for the Charleston Harbour Deepening Project, which involves dredging the harbour to 52 ft.
Inclusion in the budget makes the project eligible for direct appropriations by Congress through the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill this year.
Bill Stern, board chair of South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA), said: “Federal funding at such a high level reflects the importance of our project to the nation and supports the continued progress of construction to 52 ft.”
The US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) recalculation of the benefit-to-cost ratio (BCR) to a new score of 6.4 last fall allowed the project to meet the threshold for consideration in the Budget.
The new BCR was driven primarily by SCPA’s container cargo volume growth, which significantly outpaced estimates used in the original 2012 study.
Jim Newsome, SCPA president and CEO, stated: “Our deepening project answers the need for a Southeastern port to handle 14,000 to 18,000 teu vessels draughting 50 ft or more without significant depth and other navigation restrictions.”
Construction work began on the harbour entrance channel in February 2018 following the awarding of the first two dredging contracts, totaling US$260m by USACE.
Deepening the harbour up to SCPA’s busiest container terminal, the Wando Welch, is expected by early 2021 in what will be a construction period of 40 months.
South Carolina is the top exporter of tyres and automobiles in the US and local business leaders hope that these industries will benefit from the project.
Republican senator Larry Grooms, chairman of the SC Senate Transportation Committee, said: “Good news out of Washington is rare, but today is a rare and good day.”