CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The Charleston Harbor could soon become the deepest port on the east coast by 2022.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, SC Ports, were joined by Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Joe Cunningham for an update on the Charleston Harbor Deepening project on Wednesday.
The idea is to deepen the harbor to 52-feet from its current depth of 45 feet.
While some environmental groups have been against the project, which has been in the works for several years, leaders say the work is needed to keep Charleston competitive in the container shipping industry.
An expanding port means more jobs and increased revenue for lowcountry businesses.
“As we get more freight we have to hire all the way across our business and so it will allow us to expand our customer base and grow our business in the long term,” says Jarrett Cooper, Operations Manager with a Summerville trucking company.
A necessary project for both the S.C. Ports Authority, Cooper with BW Mitchum trucking says it just as important for the businesses and workers the harbor supports.
“Every other port is shooting to get deeper to accommodate the bigger vessels so I think we are on the front side of this and you have to in order to compete,” says Cooper.
Ports Authority CEO Jim Newsome says the project is a necessary upgrade.
“The theme of the container shipping industry is bigger ships so we needed to deepen our harbor and we’re actually coming to you know sort of the end of the project,” says Newsome. “We will finish it by mid 2022, we’ll have the deepest harbor on the east coast.”
The project has been criticized by environmental groups but Newsome say those involved with the construction have taken precautions.
“I think less than 5% of the total cost is environmental mitigation because we have an ocean harbor so it’s a very environmentally responsible project,” says Newsome.
Both Newsome and Cooper believe the extra depth will provide long lasting benefits.
“More jobs you know more good paying jobs for manufacturing and distribution and for people in the maritime industry,” says Newsome.
A vision of improvement and leadership 10 years in the works, soon to payoff for those with the most invested.
“I think they are, they’re right on track with where they need to be,” says Cooper. “It really helps all the companies across the board I believe.”
This project is just one part of the more than $2 billion worth of capital improvements coming to the harbor.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to award the final two contracts this year to complete the project.