Georgia Ports, Army Corps sign agreement for Brunswick harbor project

The Port of Brunswick in Brunswick, Ga. Photo courtesy of the Georgia Ports Authority.



The Port of Brunswick in Brunswick, Ga. Photo courtesy of the Georgia Ports Authority.

The Georgia Ports Authority and the Army Corps of Engineers this week marked the start of planning for improvements to the Brunswick harbor shipping channel that proponents say will make the transit of cargo ships safer and more efficient.

The authority and the Corps signed an agreement Monday that launches design work for the Brunswick Harbor Modifications Project, a planned widening and realignment of the channel for vehicle carrier ships entering and exiting the Brunswick port. The project was approved in March 2022 and authorized for construction under the Water Resources Development Act of 2022.

“This agreement advances a project that serves not only the interests of the state and the region, but it yields economic benefits nationwide — and we’re proud to be part of that,” Col. Joseph Geary, USACE, Savannah District commander, said in a news release.

The project is estimated to cost $17.3 million, with the ports authority covering a third of the cost and the Corps covering the remainder. A contract for the work is expected to be awarded in late 2024.

“The channel improvements will allow ocean carriers to serve the Port of Brunswick with greater safety and efficiency,” Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, said in the release. “Coupled with our on-terminal expansion efforts, the harbor project will help meet the needs of Georgia’s growing automotive and agricultural business sectors.”

In September 2019, a car container ship capsized in the Brunswick channel, triggering a massive salvage operation and cleanup and spawning lawsuits. A 2021 marine accident report produced by the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that miscalculations made by the ship’s chief officer were the main cause of the accident.

The planned channel improvements come as the ports authority is investing $247 million to expand its dockside capacity in Brunswick.

In December, the authority announced project to move “breakbulk cargo” operations from Savannah to Brunswick as part of an effort to expand container shipping at Savannah’s Ocean Terminal. Breakbulk cargo is freight that doesn’t fit into conventional container boxes and includes things such as heavy machinery and automotive products.

Breakbulk cargo handled by shipping giant Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean will move from Savannah to Colonel’s Island Terminal in Brunswick, where construction has started on new dockside warehousing and an expansion of auto storage space is underway.