What You Need to Know about the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project

June 19, 2015 | Charles Bowen


What is the purpose of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project?


The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) will allow our local ports to continue their success as two of the nation’s busiest commercial ports of entry while lowering costs and accommodating the world’s largest container vessels.


Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP)

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will deepen the Savannah river to 47 feet at mean low water and is scheduled for completion in 2016. This project will prepare the river and the port terminals it serves (Garden City Terminal and Ocean Terminal, both operated by the
Georgia Ports Authority) to accommodate Post-Panamax vessels (ships that do not currently fit in the Panama Canal such as supertankers and the largest modern container and passenger ships). These container ships will have a capacity of up to 15,000 containers, three times the current maximum of 5,000. The Savannah Harbor expansion will coincide with a $5.3 billion Panama Canal expansion consisting of the construction of two new sets of locks and the widening and deepening of existing navigational channels ongoing and expanded canal, which is also expected to be open in early 2016, Savannah will be in prime position to accept shipments from the world’s largest ships.

The ability to load and unload these larger ships will result in lower costs per container (20%-40% lower cost per slot on larger vessels) with an estimated $213 million in annual savings for shippers and $174 million to U.S. businesses. The project boasts a 5.5 to 1 benefit-to-cost ratio. The $652 million project cost ($266 million of which was funded by the State of Georgia and the remainder coming from federal funding approved by President Obama with the signing of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014) is expected to be fully recouped by estimated cost savings in just over three years.

In addition to the deepening of the river, the entrance channel will be extended by seven miles, three bend wideners and two meeting areas will be constructed. The Kings Island Turning Basin at the Garden City Terminal will also be enlarged.

Economic Impact of Savannah Ports

In 2014, the state of Georgia was ranked the #1 state in which to do business in large part due to the economic driver that is the Georgia Ports Authority. Along with manufacturing, tourism, the military and miscellaneous businesses such as health care, the port and transportation of goods combine to make up Savannah’s thriving five-tiered economy.

Statewide (FY2012)

  • 352,146 full and part-time jobs

  • $66.9 billion in sales (9.5% of total sales)

  • $32.4 billion in state GDP (7.8% of total GDP)

  • $18.5 billion in income (5.2% of total personal income)

  • $1.4 billion in state taxes

Savannah Port Traffic

2014 was a banner year for the Georgia Ports Authority and containerized cargo traffic in 2015 has routinely achieved double digit growth.

“We expect to have record growth in 2015 and a record number of Georgians supporting that growth.” - GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz

Fiscal year 2014 GPA traffic:Savannah_Container_Ship

  • 29.4 million tons (+8.0%)

  • 3.1 million TEUs (+6.3%)

  • 700,702 Autos/Machinery (+10.0%)

  • 332,989 Intermodal containers (+5.8%)

  • 2.7 million tons bulk (+8.4%)

Savannah Ports by the Numbers

Geogia_Ports_AuthorityThe Georgia Ports Authority connects the Southeast’s economy to the markets of the world, generating opportunities for the entire region. As the decade’s fastest growing and the fourth-largest container port in the nation, the Port of Savannah was responsible for moving 8.1 percent of the U.S. containerized cargo volume in FY2012, and 11.6 percent of all U.S. containerized exports. Due to its location, designation as a foreign trade zone, and infrastructure (immediate access to I-16 East/West and I-95 North/South along with two Class 1 on-terminal rail facilities), the Port of Savannah has fast and easy access to 44% of U.S. consumer and manufacturers. With a best in class 40 ship-to-shore moves per crane per hour and more than four million square feet of distribution center space available within a 30 mile radius of the port (along with 1,700 acres of land available for development), Savannah’s port is the Southeast’s must-call port.

The Bottom Line

Savannah’s ports serve as the backbone of the local economy and service a great portion of the region and country. As the global economy continues to expand and the demand for products to be imported and exported increases along with it, Savannah and other port cities in the region are in prime position to take advantage. The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project further strengthens our place in the transportation industry by improving cost competitiveness and ability to work with the world’s largest distributors.

Topics: Savannah Harbor Expansion Project