Officials hope to deepen river and expand port

By Brooke Kelley - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The Port of Savannah is the fourth busiest container port in the Country. To keep it that strong or make it stronger, port officials say we have to be able to serve the largest ships on the sea.

And the only way to do that is by deepening the Savannah River. The project's been in the works for years - but are we any closer to making it happen?

On Friday WTOC witnessed history as the largest container ship CMA-CGM Figaro docked at the Garden City Terminal. Executive Director of the Georgia Ports Authority Curtis Foltz addressed the group of business leaders about the impacts of deepening the Savannah River.

"This ship both on arrival and departure is limited to 50 or 60 percent of its total capacity because of the restrictions on its depth," Foltz explained. "If we don't get the deepening done in advance of or near the completion of the Panama Canal commerce dries up. These vessels go elsewhere."

Business and port leaders gathered on Thursday to discuss the impacts harbor deepening and port expansion.

"This isn't about the state of georgia it's about serving commerce in the entire eastern half of the united states," said Foltz.

Perhaps no one gets that better than those who work the docks. We spoke with Willie Seymore president of the 1414 Longshoreman Association.

"It all boils down to 48 feet of water. You can have all the leadership you want, 2014 those locks open up and if we don't have that water, all that hard work that all of us have done goes down the drain," said Seymore.

"The deepening project would bring in more containers and create more jobs it would just be an economic boost to Georgia," said President of BH Transfer Company Frank Young.

Congressman Jack Kingston says they've been working on getting the Savannah River deepened for 14 years and now they are closer than ever.

"We are in the fourth quarter you might say if all the studies are signed off on, then Congress would need to fund this project and that would take place next year around July," said Kingston.

Kingston is no stranger to the state. Federal and local cooperation is required to make this a reality, but he assured everyone that was there on Thursday that if they do their part, it can and will happen.

The project will deepen the river to 48 feet, currently the river is at 42 feet. The entire project could take up to four years to complete.

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