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Charleston Harbor Now Can Handle Largest Ships

Posted on January 3, 2023

Charleston Harbor is now the deepest harbor on the East Coast at 52 feet, which means the largest ships can access South Carolina Ports’ terminals at any time and any tide.

Gov. Henry McMaster, other state leaders, members of Congress, project partners, business and maritime community leaders and SC Ports officials recently gathered to mark the successful completion of the project. “It is a truly historical moment to be celebrating this monumental achievement. Charleston Harbor has been deepened to 52 feet,” SC Ports President and CEO Barbara Melvin said. “With the deepest harbor on the East Coast, we can efficiently work mega container ships at any tide. This investment will bring economic success to South Carolina for generations to come.” South Carolina Ports and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District, partnered on the Charleston Harbor deepening project, which cost the state and federal government around $580 million. The work got underway in 2018, thanks to $300 million the state set aside in 2012, followed by several infusions of federal funding. In 2019, Congress appropriated $138 million for the project, funding it to completion. The Army Corps awarded five dredging contracts – three to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company, LLC, one to Norfolk Dredging Company and one to Marinex Construction, Inc. – and the work was completed in four years.

Deepening began in the entrance channel and continued through the harbor up to SC Ports’ three container terminals.

The entrance channel was deepened to 54 feet, while 52-foot depth was achieved in Charleston Harbor up to both Wando Welch Terminal and Leatherman Terminal, with a 48-foot depth between Leatherman Terminal and North Charleston Terminal. The turning basins were also widened in front of Wando Welch Terminal and Leatherman Terminal, enabling ships to easily pass one another and turn around without restrictions.

“Our deepening project was completed faster than any other project of its kind in the nation. It required tremendous dedication, collaboration and creativity from everyone involved over the past decade,” Melvin said.


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