November 1, 2017 11:45 AM, EDT

Army Corps Awards $213 Million to Port of Charleston

Dredging Work Part of Project to Deepen Harbor Entrance
South Carolina Ports Authority CEO Jim Newsome SouthCarolinaETV via YouTube

The Army Corps of Engineers awarded $213.3 million to dredge the Charleston Harbor Entrance Channel in South Carolina, a critical step for the Port of Charleston to compete for business from international steamship lines.

The multiyear contract granted to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. kick-starts work to remove 7.95 million cubic yards of material from the channel. This summer, the Corps awarded the same company $47.2 million for the first phase of the project.

Great Lakes is slated to excavate 20 million cubic yards in the two phases; it’s scheduled to be completed as early as 2020 and cost $278.4 million. The entire project is estimated to cost $529 million for deepening the channel to 54 feet and the harbor to 52 feet.

“We look forward to seeing dredges in our harbor within the next few months and, ultimately, the completion of this effort that will make Charleston the deepest harbor on the East Coast,” South Carolina Ports Authority CEO Jim Newsome said. “The investment in harbor deepening, as well as the Leatherman Terminal for additional container capacity and multiple other projects to improve our existing and inland infrastructure, will pay dividends to South Carolina’s economy for many years to come.”

The federal government will contribute $270 million to the project, and the South Carolina government set aside $300 million for the state’s share.

“The award of the second contract for the Entrance Channel keeps us in line with our schedule, which will be the most time-consuming phase of the project,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Palazzini, district commander. “The Charleston District team has been working diligently on ensuring we keep the project schedule on track so that the entire project remains on time and on budget.”

The contract requires Great Lakes create nine artificial reefs with 265 acres of hard-bottom habitat and a berm with 400 acres of additional hard bottom consisting of the dredged rock material.

“This historic award adds to Great Lakes’ already strong position in the market for deepening projects, having completed the PortMiami deepening project in 2015 and with work currently taking place on the Savannah Harbor Deepening,” Great Lakes CEO Lasse Petterson said. “Our history with these types of projects, our current diverse fleet and the addition of the Ellis Island, position us well to compete on the expected additional upcoming port deepening bids at Boston and Jacksonville.”

Dredging the upper and lower harbors is planned to run concurrently during the work on the entrance channel.

The Ocean Alliance — a vessel-sharing agreement among CMA CGM, Cosco, Evergreen Line and Orient Overseas Container Line — already began sending Neopanamax vessels through the expanded Panama Canal to the East Coast, ramping up pressure on the ports to dig deeper to snatch business from the West Coast in the coming years.

Ports have been rushing to deepen channels and harbors, expanding berths and purchasing larger cranes to accommodate the 14,000-TEU (industry-standard 20-foot equivalent unit) vessels on a regular basis without straining the waterway or equipment on the harbor.