Savannah harbor deepening now finished, as Georgia port projects more expansion

The nearly $1 billion project to deepen the channel will allow larger cargo ships to use the Port of Savannah

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday celebrated completion of a $973 million expansion of the shipping channel linking the Port of Savannah to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Kemp and other dignitaries joined in a ceremony along the edge of the Savannah River to mark completion of the harbor deepening that will expand access to the Port of Savannah. The governor called it a “once in a generation milestone.”

Here are five things to know about the project:

1) Work to deepen 40 miles (64 kilometers) along the Savannah River to make room for larger cargo ships wrapped up earlier this month, 6 1/2 years after dredging began.

2) The project has deepened the channel to 47 feet from 42 feet. This will allow newer and larger freighters to ply the waters of the river with greater flexibility.

The 600-foot cargo ship Kaan Kalkavan navigates up the Savannah River to the Port of Savannah in 2014. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM .

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3) Now the second-largest port on the East Coast, Savannah is currently on track to expand its capacity to 7.5 million shipping containers a year. In February, officals announced plans to add nearly 30% more capacity. The new goal is to reach 9.5 million in the next three years, said Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority.

4) Cargo traffic to Georgia’s ports in Savannah and Brunswick have has surged in recent years. In Savannah, ports officials say that’s in large part because of the opening of the expanded Panama Canal.

5) Last year, about 5.6 million containers passed through Savannah, roughly 20% more than in 2020. Most of the cargo was incoming, not outgoing, amid a large trade deficit.

Our partner, The Savannah Morning News, and AJC staff writers Michael Kanell, J. Scott Trubey and Tamar Hallerman contributed to this article.

Previous coverage of this issue from the AJC

From our news partner: After 20-plus years, Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is complete, more growth planned

February 2022: Georgia’s Savannah port plans major expansion amid record shipments

January 2022: Georgia Ports broke cargo records in 2021

2020: Trump budget seeks $93.6 million this year for deepening of Savannah port

2018: Feds approve record funding for Savannah harbor deepening

2014: Savannah port’s deepening a rare triumph of bipartisanship

2011 Pro and Con: Should Georgia spend millions to deepen Savannah harbor?