A Tale of Two Ports

The Port of Savannah and the Port of Charleston are big competitors, but they have a problem. They are running out of space. With the container ports expected to run out of capacity within the next 10-15 years and after years of discussion, Georgia and South Carolina are taking the final steps to begin building the Jasper Ocean Terminal on the Savannah River in Jasper County, South Carolina. The Port would be jointly operated by both States.

As the Athens Banner-Herald reported, the total price of the Terminal is expected to be around $4.5 billion. There is an expected cost of $15 million over three years for the required permits. This cost is expected to be split between both States. South Carolina lawmakers have already appropriated $2.5 million to cover next year’s share of the costs. Meanwhile on Monday, the Georgia Ports Authority approved $7.5 million dollars for the project.

Curis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, stated, “It’s a huge step,” and went on to say, “This gets a very important phase of the project going forward. It’s a strong voice of confidence.” While Jimmy Allgood, who is the current chairman of the Georgia-South Carolina board overseeing the project and incoming chairman for the Georgia Ports Authority, questioned whether they really have a choice in going forward with the project saying, “We’ve got to have the capacity. We’re going to run out of capacity in 10 to 15 years.”

Time is of the essence here, as the first phase will likely take a decade to build at a cost of more than $2 billion, but the joint board has already begun the permitting process with the Army Corp of Engineers for construction at the site and also for the widening and deepening of the channel.

As for debt obligations, last November Jeffrey Holt, a specialized banker in the financing of port expansions and infrastructure projects, informed the board that for every $1 billion they borrow, the states should expect to pay $50 million to $130 million each year to cover debt obligations.

The Jasper Ocean Terminal will be able to house 7 million container units, and officials from both Georgia and South Carolina agree this project is the best way for expansion once the ports of Savannah and Charleston run out of room. Final approval for the initial spending plan is expected to be given by port leaders in Charleston next month and the Terminal is anticipated to be opened by 2030.

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