SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Crews continue to make progress to deepen the Savannah Harbor despite several setbacks in 2016, including Hurricane Matthew and less federal funding allocated to the project.
Many other factors have also contributed to slowing down the project timeline, so what does this mean for the average consumer?
The overall benefits to the average consumer will be paying less for shipping costs because larger vessels will be calling on our port and holding more goods.
But the longer it takes to get the job done, the longer it will be before we start reaping those benefits. On the other hand, as long as there is project in the works, that means there are more jobs for folks in our area
"Right now, we are looking at late 2021," said Army Corps of Engineers Senior Project Manager Spencer Davis.
The original 2019 completion deadline for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project has now been extended almost two years. Since dredging began in the fall of 2015, the federal government has yet to offer the amount of funding needed to keep the project on schedule. In addition to other factors last year, like Hurricane Matthew.
"There were delays for about a week to our contractors," said Davis.
But officials remain optimistic because the overall benefits outweigh the hurdles. Businesses nationwide are projected to save $213 million annually, which means the average customer will pay lower prices for products and reduced shipping costs.
"You're able to bring in more cargo on fewer vessels so shipping cost can be reduced," Davis said.
Bigger vessels are already calling on the Port of Savannah but only during high tide, which means we are already getting a glimpse of what the benefits will be like when the project is complete.
According to the Georgia Ports Authority, the IKEA distribution center has already been able to increase their volume and reduce customer cost.
The U.S. Coast Guard is also getting a head start adjusting to their safety and security inspections on these larger ships.
"It takes what we've historically done, it just takes longer to do," said USCG Commander Joshua Rose.
About 25 percent of the overall deepening project has already been completed which includes part of the outer harbor. It will be at least another two years before they start deepening the inner harbor.
"The challenge is keeping the project like this moving along," Davis said.
Just a reminder, this $706 million project is being split between the state of Georgia and the federal government. But unlike the federal government, Georgia already set aside its promised amount of $266 million.
You can follow the SHEP progression chart provided by the Amry Corps of Engineers by click here.
You can also find more information on the project and it's economic impact on the Georgia Ports Authority website, please click here.