Jasper County officials say new terminal is behind schedule

By Harriet McLeod
Contributing writer
Published Oct. 28, 2013

A new port terminal on the S.C. side of the Savannah River that has been planned for more than a decade is behind schedule, and the clock is ticking toward a deadline, Jasper County officials said Thursday night.

The Jasper Ocean Terminal, a joint project of the S.C. and Georgia state ports authorities, is expected to bring $9 billion of tax revenue to the two states and eventually support up to 1 million jobs, but the port will take 13 to 15 years to build, and work needs to start now, officials said, as they called on developers to speed up the process and asked maritime businesses for support.

The ports of Charleston and Savannah are projected to be nearing 80% capacity by 2026, and the new terminal will be needed, county officials said.

“Are we really going to be ready? The way we look at it, we’ll still be two years behind in needing a port,” Jasper County Council Chairman Henry Etheridge told members of the Port of Charleston’s Propeller Club. “We well understand that they don’t need a third competitor. But we need jobs in Jasper County for our people.”

Jasper County Administrator Andrew Fulghum said permit approval is expected to take eight years.

“If the two states can’t figure out and make significant progress in developing the terminal, the deal can be off in 2017, and the property then reverts back to the state of Georgia,” he said.

The 1,500-acre site in Jasper County is about 12 miles from the sea buoy. It will have 10 berths, a turning basin, and road and rail access, the Joint Project Office said in a 2011 update. The terminals’ supporting infrastructure will be able to handle post-Panamax ships capable of carrying up to 12,600 20-foot containers and needing 50 feet of water depth and 158 feet of width.

But the project has waited for the deepening of Savannah’s shipping channel to be approved, which the Army Corps of Engineers did last summer; it now must wait on the Corps’ decision on the deepening of Charleston Harbor, which is expected in 18 to 24 months, Etheridge said.

“You may have your differences in this arrangement, you may fight each other for the next 13 years, you may ultimately never do it, but you’re legally bound to start the permitting process, and if you don’t you will have squandered away the opportunity to ever build this later,” Fulghum said.

Read more about the Jasper Ocean Terminal in the Nov. 4 print issue of the Business Journal. Subscribe online.

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