SAVANNAH, Ga. — In a visit to the Port of Savannah today, Panama’s Minister for Canal Affairs Roberto Roy described progress on the canal expansion, and heard the latest news on deepening the Savannah Harbor to 47 feet.
“With the historic expansion of the Panama Canal nearing completion, I applaud Georgia for making the improvement of its port infrastructure a fiscal priority,” said Roy, who also serves as Panama Canal Board Chairman.
The Record of Decision, signifying final federal approval for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, was issued in October 2012. The Record of Decision also means that federal funding for construction can be allotted in the FY2014 budget.
“This final clearance affirms this project carries national significance; it is a major milestone,” said GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz. “The next step is for Congress to approve the project budget and fund the deepening.”
Earlier in the week, Roy met with Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, who stressed the importance of both maritime projects.
“The expanded Panama Canal will play a pivotal role in the future of global commerce, instituting a sea change in the efficiency of Trans-Atlantic trade,” said Gov. Deal. “As the busiest terminal on the East Coast for U.S. export tonnage, it is vital for the Port of Savannah to prepare for the larger ships that will soon transit via Panama.”
The Panama Canal expansion will increase the maximum possible draft of vessels traveling to and from the U.S. East Coast via Panama from 39.5 feet to as much as 50 feet in tropical fresh water. Vessel capacity will also increase from the current limit of up to 5,000 twenty-foot equivalent container units (TUEs) to up to approximately 13,000 TEUs. The work is scheduled for completion in 2015.
Georgia Ports Authority Board Chairman Robert Jepson noted that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers studies indicate the port deepening will reduce shipping costs by at least $213 million a year.
“The 5.5-to-1 benefit-to-cost ratio demonstrates that the expenditure would be a wise investment of federal dollars,” Jepson said.
The Georgia Ports Authority renewed its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Panama Canal Authority in 2011. It was first signed in 2003. This strategic alliance allows both authorities to improve services for customers and generate new economic opportunities for Georgia and the eastern half of the United States. Areas of cooperation include, among others, joint marketing efforts, exchange of data, market studies, expansion plans, training and technology.