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  April 15th, 2015 | Written by

Port of Savannah to Begin Dredging; Largest Ship Makes Maiden Call

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  • Port of Savannah awarded $134.5 million contract by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge its Outer Harbor.
  • Georgia approves $266 million in bonds to cover its projected share of Port of Savannah’s Outer Harbor dredging.
  • Port of Savannah marks maiden arrival of the 1,145-foot containership Tianjin at its Garden City terminal.

The lengthy effort to begin the long-awaited dredging of the Port of Savannah’s Outer Harbor has borne fruit with the award of a $134.5 million contract by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to Illinois-based Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company.

The contract is the first step in the multi-phase Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP), which will culminate in the deepening the of port’s entire 40-mile long Savannah River shipping channel from the open ocean to its Garden City Container Terminal. The project’s aim is to enable increasingly larger-capacity container ships “to call at Savannah with greater ease, heavier cargoes and fewer tidal restraints than they currently experience,” the port says.

When completed, the project will deepen the harbor from 42 feet to 47 feet at low tide and deepen the entrance of the channel to 49 feet “enabling the Port of Savannah to better accommodate the larger vessels serving world trade” with the “lower costs per container slots on today’s megaships saving Savannah port customers 20 to 40 percent on ocean transit.”

The State of Georgia has approved $266 million in bonds to cover its projected share of construction costs. As the $706 million expansion moves forward, construction funding will shift to federal funds.

The new depth, says Tom Tickner, the Corps of Engineers’ Savannah District Commander, “is a forthcoming reality and we are now well on our way to putting a critical piece of transportation infrastructure in place.”



Alluding to the continuing work to expand the Panama Canal, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock CEO Jonathan Berger says the Savannah project is necessary to keep up with evolving industry standards and that “it’s critical for U.S. ports along the Eastern seaboard and Gulf Coasts to accommodate post-Panamax vessels.”

Announcement of the contract comes as the port recently marked the maiden arrival of the 1,145 foot containership Tianjin at the Garden City terminal.

With a container capacity of more than 10,000 20-foot ‘cans’ (TEUs), the massive ship, operated by Israel-based Zim Integrated Shipping, is the largest ever to call at Savannah. If stood on end, she would stand nearly as tall as the Empire State Building—just 16 yards shy of the length of four football fields.

Georgia Ports Authority executive director Curtis Foltz said at the time that ships in the Tianjin’s class “provide lower per-container costs for cargo owners and reduce the expense of delivering goods to customers at home and abroad.” The economy of scale achieved by Super Post-Panamax vessels, he added, “is the reason we’re seeing more of them in Savannah, a trend that will only continue after an expanded Panama Canal opens in 2016.”