Vice President Biden urges expediting port improvement projects, including deepening Savannah harbor so port can serve the larger vessels expected after Panama Canal expansion.
AFTER touring the Port of Savannah, Ga., Sept. 16, Vice President Joe Biden called for expediting port improvement projects on the East Coast.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox, Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R., Ga.) and Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.), Rep. Jack Kingston (R., Ga.), Atlanta, Ga., Mayor Kasim Reed and Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson accompanied the Vice President on the tour.
Post-Panamax vessels are too large to transit the current Panama Canal. Deepening the Savannah River to 47 ft. 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 the larger post-Panamax ships will save U.S. companies that ship goods through Savannah 20-40% 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.
Kingston said the nation cannot afford to delay the Savannah harbor project.
"We are united in support of this vital project because we know that it is the key to keeping this economic engine humming," Kingston said. "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."
Georgia Gov. 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 (D.C.) delegation, which has unanimously supported the deepening in a letter to the President," Deal said.
He cited federal studies showing that for every dollar invested, the nation's economy will reap $5.50 in net benefits from the project.
Georgia Ports Authority board chairman Robert Jepson said the Port of Savannah's broad economic impact warrants federal investment.
"This port is a regional and national resource supporting companies headquartered in all 50 states and with a direct reach extending to 44% of the U.S. population," Jepson said.
As Savannah is the East Coast's busiest port for containerized exports, the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) is critical to meeting the goals of the President's National Export Initiative. Exports make up 62% of Savannah's containerized tonnage.
"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."
"Falling on the heels of U.S. Army undersecretary Joseph Westphal's visit to Savannah, Vice President Biden's visit makes it clear that momentum is building for this harbor expansion," Georgia Ports Authority executive director Curtis Foltz said. "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."