Global trade has been one of the major factors that have helped Georgia’s economy during the recent years of economic downfall. However, this recovery could stall if the port of Savannah is not deepened to handle larger container ships of the future. Since Savannah is Georgia’s main gateway to import and export trading, the plans to deepen the Savannah River may be necessary if Georgia wants its economy to fully recover from the recession.
The Port of Savannah currently stands as the nation’s fourth largest container port and accounts for 129,000 full and part time jobs statewide and contributes $15.5 billion in personal income. Additionally, the port heavily contributes to the economy of Georgia’s capital, Atlanta. An estimated $8 billion in cargo from the Port of Savannah is transported across the 28-county metro Atlanta region during the last year. It is obvious that Savannah plays a crucial part in the state’s economy.
Deepening the Savannah River from what is now 42 feet to 48 feet would enable the Port of Savannah to handle the estimated 25% increase of East Coast shipments from the expansion of the Panama Canal, which is expected to finish in 2015. The project to deepen the river is estimated to cost Georgia and federal taxpayers approximately $551 million and expected to begin by 2012. In addition to the financial cost of this project, there are also concerns about the affect that it has on the environment. Environmentalists are worried that this project will harm the area’s drinking water and wild life such as endangered sturgeon and striped bass. Fear of decline in businesses has also surfaced in the port officials of South Carolina. They’re afraid that once Savannah deepens their port, they will soak up most of the East Coast competition.
Aside from all the concerns, this project will bring a large of amount of business that is needed for the recovery of Georgia’s economy. A deeper Savannah port is predicted to double the amount of cargo that it can handle by 2020. It is also expected to bring in $100 million to add to the economy. Although there are concerns of the negative effects of this project, the positive impacts that it could have on the cargo shipping industry outweighs the negative impacts. Not only will this project allow for more traffic into Savannah, it could potentially save Georgia from the economic decline that it has suffered over the years.