Posted June 3, 2020
Work will deepen harbor without disrupting ship traffic, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says.
The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) is taking advantage of slow container traffic incurred by coronavirus business shutdowns to catch up on infrastructure improvements, announcing Sunday that it has set a new precedent by using four dredges simultaneously on its Savannah harbor deepening project.
The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) includes two dredges keeping the channel at its current authorized depth of 42 feet, followed by two dredges taking the channel to its new depth of 47 feet, according to a release from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The dredges work without disrupting the flow of commercial traffic to or from the Port of Savannah's Garden City Terminal and other facilities along the river, thanks to tight coordination between the Army, the GPA, dredging contractors, harbor pilots, and the U.S. Coast Guard, authorities said.
Operators run the dredges 24 hours a day, moving aside whenever commercial vessels enter their area. That is achieved by orchestrating the movements of each dredge and its associated support vessels, the Army said. First, the two smaller maintenance dredges remove built up shoaling and sediment, then move on, followed by the larger deepening dredges. In addition, workers must move pipelines leading from the dredges to the dredge material disposal areas. Finally, everything returns to continue the routine after commercial traffic passes.
One factor enabling the work to proceed is slow container demand related to coronavirus closures. In March, the GPA said it was expanding its storage capacity so port users can stage their cargo until demand returns.
The entire deepening project is now about 62% complete. The outer harbor, a roughly 20-mile channel extending into the Atlantic Ocean, has already been deepened to 49 feet at low tide. The inner harbor constitutes the final portion.
When completed, the project will allow today's larger container vessels to enter and leave the harbor during a longer tide window and with more cargo aboard. "With the challenges our economy is facing, the savings a deeper harbor will mean for our customers can't come soon enough," GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch said in a release. "We're excited to see so much work getting done as the Corps of Engineers coordinates these efforts.”