U.S. Vice President Calls for Expediting Port Improvement Projects
After touring the Port of Savannah Monday, Vice President Joe Biden called for expediting port improvement projects on the U.S. East Coast.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Fox, Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, Congressman Jack Kingston, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson accompanied the vice president on the tour.
“I appreciate the opportunity to show Vice President Biden the Port of Savannah firsthand, and discuss the importance of SHEP to the state of Georgia and our nation,” Chambliss said. “Deepening the harbor at the Port of Savannah is in line with the nation’s priorities, including our focus on increasing American export capabilities. Georgia is a committed partner in this endeavor, and continued federal support is crucial to achieving this goal. I look forward to the vice president returning to cut the ribbon on a completed project.”
Isakson noted the momentum added by the administration’s backing of the project.
“I am thrilled by Vice President Biden’s visit to the Port of Savannah today to demonstrate the administration’s support for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project,” said Isakson. “This project is critically important to the state of Georgia, Southeast region and nation, and it would support hundreds of thousands of jobs each year while generating billions in revenue. It is my hope that today’s visit will be a catalyst for completing the final steps in this process, and I will continue to work with the White House, the state of Georgia and Congress to see this project through to its completion.”
Post-Panamax vessels are too large to transit the current Panama Canal. By deepening the Savannah River to 47 feet, the project will enable the port to more efficiently serve the larger vessels expected to call in greater numbers after the canal’s 2015 expansion. Lower prices per container slot on Post-Panamax ships will save U.S. companies shipping goods through Savannah 20 to 40 percent on transportation, which translates into lower costs for the export of manufactured goods such as Caterpillars made in Peoria, Ill., and Nissans built in Smyrna, Tenn.
Congressman Kingston said the nation cannot afford to delay the Savannah Harbor deepening.
“We are united in support of this vital project because we know that it is the key to keeping this economic engine humming,” said Kingston. “Failure to complete the harbor expansion would spell disaster not just for Georgia but for the region. After 14 years of study, we not only know that it can be completed in an environmentally-sound manner but that it will provide enormous economic benefit for our region.”
Mayor Reed noted the cross-party coalition of state and federal officials supporting the harbor expansion.
“I appreciate Vice President Joe Biden’s support of vital infrastructure projects that create well-paying jobs and lead to sustained job creation,” said Mayor Reed. “I am pleased to join Gov. Nathan Deal, Sen. Johnny Isakson, Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Congressman Jack Kingston to continue advocating strongly for the deepening of the Port of Savannah right away, which along with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, helps fuel Georgia’s economic health and allows our region and state to remain globally competitive.”
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, working with the Georgia General Assembly, has allocated $231 million toward the project, which now awaits only an update from Congress to the current construction budget of $652 million.
“We appreciate Georgia’s entire Washington delegation, which has unanimously supported the deepening in a letter to the president,” Deal said. He noted federal studies showing that for every dollar invested, the nation’s economy will reap $5.50 in net benefits.
GPA Board Chairman Robert Jepson said federal investment also is warranted by the Port of Savannah’s broad economic impact.
“This port is a regional and national resource, supporting companies headquartered in all 50 states, and with a direct reach extending to 44 percent of the U.S. population,” Jepson said.
As Savannah is the East Coast’s busiest port for containerized exports, the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is critical to meeting the goals of the National Export Initiative. Exports make up 62 percent of Savannah’s containerized tonnage.
“Falling on the heels of U.S. Army Under Secretary Joseph Westphal’s visit to Savannah, Vice President Biden’s visit makes it clear that momentum is building for this harbor expansion,” said GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz. “We look forward to starting the project, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has shown will yield some $213 million a year in transportation savings.”
Port of Savannah, September 17, 2013