The South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA), which operates the Port of Charleston, said late yesterday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $213 million contract to dredge its harbor's 20-mile entrance channel to 54 feet and the inner harbor to 52 feet, making Charleston the deepest harbor on the East Coast.
The contract, which was officially let on Thursday, follows a $316 million contract awarded last month. Charleston Harbor's current water depth is 45 feet. The entire project will take between 40 and 76 months to complete, the Corps of Engineers said in a separate statement.
The Port of New York and New Jersey, and the ports of Norfolk, Va.; Baltimore, and Miami have 50-foot water drafts. East Coast ports have deepened their channel and inner-harbor drafts to ensure that massive container vessels can safely navigate their facilities even when carrying far more container units than ever before. The widened and deepened Panama Canal can handle ships with capacity of up to 13,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), meaning that larger vessels can transit the Canal with Asian cargoes bound for destinations across the eastern half of the U.S.
To prepare for more volumes, the Authority said it would buy six ship-to-shore cranes at a cost of $69.5 million, the largest crane purchase in its history. The cranes are expected to be delivered in late 2019, Jim Newsome, SCPA's president and CEO, said in a statement.