Port of Charleston Getting Big Ship Ready

Ultra large ships carrying containers have become the dominant force of the industry, but not all ports can accommodate these giants of the seas.

With that in mind, the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) has been working on the Charleston Harbor Deepening project for quite some time. The project, which will see the channel deepened to 52 feet (15.8 meters), finally broke ground at a ceremony held earlier this month with the first dredgers already deployed on the spot.

“It is a monumental accomplishment to begin construction on the Charleston Deepening Project, which makes Charleston the deepest port on the East Coast at a time when deep and wide shipping channels are necessary,” Jim Newsome,  SCPA president and CEO, said.

As explained by Newsome, ports must adapt to handle the big containerships in order to remain competitive.

“Our project will be completed just ten years from its initial conception in 2010, enabling Charleston to serve the fastest growing region in the country with the ability to handle ships fully-loaded with heavy export goods,” he said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District awarded the first two construction contracts last fall, which together provide for the deepening of the more than 20 miles long Charleston Harbor Entrance Channel to 54 feet.

Including the dredging of the upper and lower harbors to 52 feet, the project is expected to achieve significant completion by 2020, SCPA said.

South Carolina Ports Authority reported a fiscal year-to-date container volume record of over 1.4 million TEU handled since July.

“Our container volumes are on track leading into spring, which is generally a strong season for the port,” Newsome added.

“It is an exciting and busy time for the port, having just received two new neo-Panamax cranes and celebrated the beginning of construction on the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project. We look forward to the next milestone, the opening of Inland Port Dillon, next month.”