JASPER CO., SC (WTOC) - It's been in the works for years, but we're now one step closer to a new seaport terminal on the Savannah River.
Monday, the Georgia and South Carolina Ports Authorities signed a joint venture agreement to develop the terminal in Jasper County.
The plan has always been for the terminal to be jointly owned and operated by the two authorities, but Monday's agreement gives an official green light to move forward with the project and to figure out the details of its development.
"Overall this is very significant, not only to South Carolina and Georgia, but the entire east coast in terms of economic impact and also job creation," said Martin Sauls, IV, Vice Chairman of the Jasper County Council. "You're looking at thousands of jobs, a multi-billion dollar port, so this is going to change the complete face of the entire southeast."
The agreement establishes the framework for future decisions on how the terminal will be managed, how profits will be shared, and other operational details.
According to the head of the Georgia Ports Authority, the ports in Savannah and Charleston are only getting busier -- and this new terminal would alleviate future issues when they reach capacity.
"This is really the solution and commitment to provide the region room for continued port growth for probably the next century or so," said Curtis Foltz, Executive Director of the Georgia Ports Authority.
The terminal would have other benefits, too. Right now, ships that come into the port of Savannah dock at the Garden City Terminal. The Jasper Ocean Terminal will be downriver, 13 miles closer to the ocean.
"In the shipping business, time is money. So location, location, location. This certainly fits the bill for that," said Sauls, IV.
The terminal would be built on what is now 1,500 acres of unused marshland across from Elba Island, and it would be able to handle at least the same capacity as the Garden City Terminal, if not more.
"Georgia and South Carolina are getting a break, and we truly are probably the only region in the United States that has the vision to identify and commit to building that sort of capacity to support the area for the next half a century," said Foltz.
And while Monday is not the last step in this ongoing project, it's certainly a big one.
"I mean, you're looking now at what's a reality and what's been somewhat of a myth in the past to others," said Sauls, IV. "There's been a lot of speculation that the Jasper Ocean Terminal would never come to fruition. I think what's taken place today solidifies that."