The canal’s delay redounds, actually, to Georgia’s benefit. The state and the Georgia Ports Authority are in the midst of a $706 million deepening of the Savannah River to allow bigger ships to steam 40 miles upriver from the Atlantic Ocean to the port of Savannah.
Deepening the river, from 42 feet to 47 feet, is expected to be finished by 2020. While state taxpayers have fulfilled their $266 million share of the project, port backers await Congress to make good on the rest of the money.
“We anticipate growing capacity and project FY2017 container growth through Savannah to be in the four to five percent range,” said Curtis Foltz, executive director of the port authority.
Foltz, though, underscored that the mega-ships won’t immediately hit the East Coast. Shippers and logistics experts expect a gradual increase in big ships traversing the canal. With the ability to handle ships carrying three times as many containers, shipping costs should drop.
Spencer, the logistician, said a container from China landing on the East Coast costs $2,000 more than a container dropped on the West Coast and put on a train to Atlanta, Charlotte or other eastern destinations. Shipping rates, though, are dropping.
“The dollars are significant,” Spencer said. “I see this as a gamechanger pretty soon.”