Florida Fears SC Dredging

SOUTH CAROLINA HAS A “LEG UP?” WHAT? By FITSNEWS  ||  It’s not often South Carolina is able to strike fear into the hearts of its neighboring states on an economic issue.  Typically it’s the other way around … especially when it comes to our port infrastructure. After all, shortly after taking…


By FITSNEWS  ||  It’s not often South Carolina is able to strike fear into the hearts of its neighboring states on an economic issue.  Typically it’s the other way around … especially when it comes to our port infrastructure.

After all, shortly after taking office our “Jobs Governor” Nikki Haley sold the Palmetto State’s most compelling competitive advantage down the river – literally.  So we shouldn’t expect to have the upper hand on this issue.

In response to Haley’s sellout, though, lawmakers in Columbia took swift action to provide for the deepening of Charleston harbor – appropriating $300 million to the project (a year after they couldn’t even muster $400,000 to pay for part of a study of its feasibility).

We wish they would have leveraged private capital for such projects, but given the crisis Haley’s sellout created (and the lack of support for free market alternatives) – there was really nothing for us to do but support the expenditure.

Which we did.

And besides, God only knows what lawmakers would have spent the money on otherwise …

Anyway, earlier this week – in a story that broke here on FITS – the S.C. State Ports Authority (SCSPA) announced the results of a U.S Army Corps of Engineers report on the Charleston port project.

Critically, that report recommended that the harbor be dredged to a depth of 52 feet.

Why does that matter?  Because bigger, heavier ships need deeper harbors.  In particular the 10,000 TEU (a.k.a. “twenty-foot equivalent unit”) ships making most of the calls on East Coast ports draft 48 feet when fully loaded – and need a ten percent under keel clearance on top (or bottom) of that.

So, 52 feet is a critical depth … and the fact South Carolina’s port project is going to hit that mark (compared to Georgia’s 47-foot depth) is causing other competitors to take notice.

Take Florida – where editorial pages are blaring headlines like “Beware: Here Comes Charleston.”

“The 52-foot channel will give Charleston a significant leg up in going after the lucrative export business, an area JaxPort is also targeting,”’s Ron Littlepage wrote.

Mmmmm … a ‘leg up.” We like that.

In another column, Littlepage added that “the cargo exported from the United States is generally heavier than the consumer goods imported, thus the need for deep water for the giant ships to get out of port.  A channel 52 feet in depth can handle that; 47 feet, not so much.”

Again, we maintain South Carolina could have accelerated its deepening of Charleston harbor – and initiated its long-overdue development of a deepwater port in Jasper County – had it leveraged private money.

But the good news is a rare instance of forward-thinking on the part of state lawmakers kept Haley’s sellout from crippling the competitive position of our port infrastructure for years to come …

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Jackie Chiles October 9, 2014 at 3:03 pm


CNSYD October 9, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Thanks to Sic Willie for supporting the state expenditure. It would not have happened had he not done so.

ScrewedNSC October 9, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Now with 52′ depth is the Ravenel bridge high enough?

Smirks October 9, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Rename it the Thomas Ravenel bridge and it will be.

G.O.B. October 9, 2014 at 3:48 pm

+ Eleventy Billion! Post of the decade!

ScrewedNSC October 9, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Dry sense of humor!

euwe max October 9, 2014 at 8:15 pm

I think he’s high enough to hunt pigeons with a rake.

euwe max October 9, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Will is going to have to go downtown. It’s going to be a real quality hit… both senses.

The Colonel October 9, 2014 at 4:18 pm

The problem with the Ravenel bridge isn’t Depth, it’s height – VLCS ships and Panamax’s have a maximum airdraft (height above the water) of 190 ft (57.91 m) – the Ravenel bridge has an airdraft of 186 feet (57 m) – tides will help some but the Ravenel Bridge isn’t high enough by about 1 meter.

ScrewedNSC October 9, 2014 at 4:30 pm

That is what i thought. So why dredge to a 52′ depth if the airdraft cannot be accommodated by the Ravenel or T-Rav bridge. Is the Ravenel bridge airdraft 186′ at high tide or low tide?

The Colonel October 9, 2014 at 4:49 pm

It’s more complicated than “how tall is the ship”. Generally, the last few meters are masts or protrusions that can be “modified in service”, read “lowered”. The bridge should have been built 2-3 meters higher but I saw estimates in the $10,000,000 range for that 2-3 meters during construction. The Ravenel bridge was designed in the late ’90s and construction began in ’01. The Panamax class ships didn’t really begin coming on line until ’06.

VLCS and Panamax ship have max airdrafts of 190 feet – many are shorter and builders will adjust their designs – there are very few bridges in the world capable of passing a Panamax underneath. The max design height is based on the Bridge of the Americas on the Pan American Highway at Balboa Panama with a max airdraft of 201 feet

SC State Ports Screwed Up October 9, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Ten million in the construction industry is not a lot of money anymore. Was not a lot of money when the bridge was designed, either. But then, nobody thought about the future of ocean vessels either. It not for the Cooper River Bridge …. State Ports should have never built at Wando. That was the first mistake. Second mistake, SC Ports is going to be pushed out as the ships get bigger and bigger. And why they getting bigger is a no brainer. Should have done something with Patriots point while they had the chance. Now its too late.

FastEddy23 October 9, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Google Earth shows another set of piers: “French Quarter, Ansonborough, Charleston, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina”.

Wondering if that isn’t a better choice than “raising the bridge”.

Deo Vindice SC October 9, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Frag yourself, please !

tomstickler October 10, 2014 at 12:51 am

What matters is the distance from the bottom of the channel to the bottom of the bridge compared to the keel-to-mast height (KTMH) of the ship.

If the 52 foot channel and the 186 foot Ravenel height are both measured at the same tide condition, we are talking about 238 feet, which will accommodate all but a few of the biggest now in service. Yes, you have to add 5 feet below and 5 feet above, but that is 228 feet, and the MSC Daniella has KTMH of 221.

Keep It True October 9, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Panamax is a crane type. lololololol.

The Colonel October 9, 2014 at 6:51 pm

In this use, Panamax is a class of commercial cargo ship designed to the maximum dimensions possible to transit the Panama Canal roughly, 950 feet long, 106 feet wide (beam) with a draft of 39.5 feet.

Corrupt State Ports October 9, 2014 at 5:30 pm

No, it is not. The new series of super ocean vessels can not fit under the bridge to dock at the corrupt port authority Wando Terminal, which is the only terminal in Charleston able to handle the current larger vessels. This is all a major smoke screen.

Deo Vindice SC October 9, 2014 at 6:17 pm

One thing for sure, Ga has no fear. Anyone that thinks SC is going to get the upper-hand is SC educated. AKA, stupid. As long as pubs rule the state nothing could happen. Shit, India could control the port soon ! Their ships are the perfect size to do business in SC.

Centrist View October 9, 2014 at 3:30 pm

“the cargo exported from the United States is generally heavier than the consumer goods imported,,”

With the larger ships, cheap foreign goods can then be imported even cheaper, and in much greater quantities.

Native Ink October 9, 2014 at 3:35 pm

It sounds like Jax is lagging behind, but it’s not like Charleston is leading the way. Most of the major Eastern ports already have channels that are already 50+ deep or are ahead of Charleston in meeting that goal. A quick Google search shows that Norfolk, New York/New Jersey, Baltimore, and Miami are already 50+ feet deep. New Orleans will soon be there also.

Deepening the port is required to keep up with the competition. It will only give us an edge over Savannah and Jacksonville until they catch up.

Rocky October 9, 2014 at 11:08 pm

Jacksonville actually has a huge advantage not mentioned. One, these huge ships in Jacksonville don’t have to go under a bridge where clearance is an issue. Also, it’s not as far up river as North Charleston port facilities. Also, Florida is way ahead of Charletson in building exchange facilities to get containers onto rail cars linking out to the rest of the country (most noteably the large CSX yard in Waycross). Most containers today are moved by rail, not trucks because the cost of diesel is so high. Also Florida continues to dominate barge traffic between international contain exchange facilities like San Juan and Grand Bahamas. As well as Miami which has direct rail transfers to Florida East Coast Railway. If Charleston had such a leg up, the Navy would still have a large fleet there. As I recall, it’s FLorida who’s getting more naval ships.
Charleston is a great port, no doubt, but Nikki stuck it to Charleston with the Savannah sell out. It might takes decades to catch up.

SomalianRoadCorp October 10, 2014 at 3:43 pm

You won’t see PanaMax vessels mooring in New Orleans…

WW October 9, 2014 at 3:43 pm

All Florida has to do is have a fund raiser for Haley and she will throw South Carolina under the bus and help Florida’s Ports best our ports!
She is a whore for cash.

vicupstate October 9, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Yep. Where the F were the so called ‘conservatives’, when we got screwed and had to cough up $300 million in state money to replace the Federal money that went to GA.

The Colonel October 9, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Why don’t you just call “10,000 TEU (a.k.a. “twenty-foot equivalent unit”) ship…” Very large Cargo ships or VLCS like the rest of us?

Even though you’ve sort of explained it, very few people know that a TEU (or Twenty foot Equivalent Unit) refers to a shipping container 20 feet long and 8 feet wide by 8.5 feet high – roughly 1,300 cubic feet.

CNSYD October 9, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Now you have gone and done it! Next you will have to explain gantry cranes to Sic Willie.

FastEddy23 October 9, 2014 at 6:28 pm

Picture Star Wars “Walkers”, except they don’t get around as much.

FastEddy23 October 9, 2014 at 6:24 pm

That’s another thing: The 40 and 45 foot containers are ubiquitous in the west. The 20 footers just are not nearly as efficient. Does SC have to change trucking/highway rules to accomodate 45 foot containers on the freeways?

Otherwise, train tracks are at both sites.

(Forget Bing Maps, Google Earth is better for examining waterways.)

The Colonel October 9, 2014 at 6:28 pm

No, a standard truck is

The Colonel October 9, 2014 at 8:08 pm

To go with a job that is just slightly less dangerous than logging.

FastEddy23 October 10, 2014 at 9:39 am

One also needs a good lawyer to be a tugboat jock.

Those double bottom trucks usually take a pair of 20 footers on route to New Jersey. Double bottom 40 footers are not allowed north on Mason-Dixon line.

Torch October 9, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Where are they going to put all the crap they dredge out of the harbor? Can anyone enlighten me?

euwe max October 9, 2014 at 8:14 pm

They did another hole, and put it in that one.

RogueElephant October 9, 2014 at 11:06 pm

They suck it out of the harbor and squirt it on the bank , then sell it to Yankees for ocean front property.

euwe max October 9, 2014 at 11:16 pm

Marines who flicked a cigarette butt into the dirt observed by senior rank may have had to give it a “military funeral”.

A grave to put it in. 6 foot by 3 foot by 6 foot deep.

When he was done, if the top wasn’t perfectly flat, he’d have to bury the extra dirt in another hole.

SC Political Digest October 9, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Nikki Haley is the greatest thing to ever happen to SC! Of course, I haven’t been outside or around a living breathing person in years. Read all about my recipes for ‘fancy’ ramen noodles and games for shut ins at SC Plotical Dijest.

Big Joke October 9, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Can’t fit under the Cooper River Bridge at high tide. They are too tall. Do the research yourself on the larger vessels.

Big Joke October 9, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Tell me this … .Why are the SC State Port’s Authority Salaries kept secret and not accessible via on-line data bases, like those provided by the Budget and Control Board’s Office of Human Resources? Why does the SC State Port’s Authority operate in such secrecy?

Jock Stender, Charleston October 9, 2014 at 6:27 pm

I recently requested Ravenel Bridge engineering and cost data concerning its air draft from the S.C. Dept. of Transportation, which refused my request.

At MLW (mean low water), the Ravenel Bridge has a 1 foot air draft advantage over Savannah’s Talmadge Bridge, the Corps of Engineers and Savannah Pilots Association tell me. See also

But there’s a mostly-ignored quality of life issue with these ULCVs that no marine consultancy has yet researched, consisting in
(a) road and bridge infrastructures needed to accommodate them,
(b) increased truck traffic congestion and smog, and
(c) number and quality + income of jobs they create.

Ocean carriers and shipbuilders are unconcerned with these “shore side” tradeoffs, but as residents here, we should not be. In Charleston, it’s now academic in that Charleston’s and Savannah’s bridges are complete and air draft are … well, etched in stone.

The real crime for South Carolinians, though, is the effective “mothballing” — for decades — of the Jasper Marine Terminal by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, with the eager participation of S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley. In return for her “mothball” concession, Deal let Haley give a speech at the Republican National Convention.

Haley and Deal (both up for reelection this year) moved ahead politically and the poor people of Jasper County got the shaft. I explain:

Whereas newer, larger container ships require ever-deeper drafts and smaller gangs (read: “fewer longshore jobs”) prompting increased automation (again, read: “fewer longshore jobs”), newer, larger Ro-Ro vessels, transporting rolling stock and wide / heavy loads (e.g., wind turbine blades, electric power transformers and generators, etc.), require a steady, highly-skilled workforce — not just for working the vessel (longshoremen, stevedores, clerks, checkers) — but also for handling cargo inbound and outbound. This includes warehousing, assembly or dis-assembly, minor and major repairs, consolidation, application of cosmoline, installation of radios and other equipment, etc.

The proposed Jasper Marine Terminal, where the Savannah River is 42 feet deep, would require a 37-foot draft even for the largest vessels, and poses NO air draft challenges because (a) the largest Ro-Ro vessels have air drafts of about 150 feet and (b) the proposed JMT is located below the Talmadge Bridge. Also, the JMT is situated with a built-in turning basin. THE JMT WOULD NEVER, REPEAT NEVER REQUIRE DREDGING.

To create the most and best, high-paying and -skilled jobs, the JMT’s best use is as a Ro-Ro terminal — not a container terminal, and Gov. Deal knows that. He also just got federal money for harbor dredging.

The GPA’s Port of Brunswick, dedicated principally to Ro-Ro cargo, is a runaway success. GOV. DEAL DOESN’T WANT THE JMT COMPETING WITH GPA’S PORT OF BRUNSWICK.

I estimate three decades will pass before the JMT is ever built. Meanwhile, as widely ridiculed, it will literally be the Savannah River dredge spoil dumping site.

Final thoughts.

(a) Sen. Grooms’ legislation (S-351, Act 73 of 2009;, which purported to adopt the “New Orleans Model” of diversity and expertise on the SCSPA’s board of directors, is a farce. The law calls for new SCSPA board members to have expertise in rail and truck operations, for instance — very badly needed, in my opinion. After its passage, Gov. Haley re-nominated politicians, real estate developers and campaign contributors to SCSPA’s board — and the Senate approved them all. There is no person with rail, truck, warehousing, marine terminal, stevedoring or cargo handling expertise on SCSPA’s board.

(b) Jimmy Newsome’s doing a great job running the SCSPA with a non-diverse, trust-the-staff, politically-compliant, “amen” board supervising monopolistic, zero-free-market marine terminals, all brought to you by your favorite governor and legislature. The dream of any CEO is to have a compliant, we-trust-you board, and this one doesn’t disappoint.

(c) Maybe by the time the JMT is developed, it will be a bistate-owned “landlord” port wherein the private sector invests in infrastructure, operates the terminals, and competes with one another on production, storage, wharfage, usage, dockage, hours of operation, rules, regulations, etc. But since both SC and GA own “operating” terminals (no private competition among marine terminals), I’m not holding my breath.

Jock Stender, Charleston

Bible Thumper October 9, 2014 at 7:09 pm

That’s a lot of good info, but I have read that the current proposal for Savannah will cost $600 million while development of JMT with infrastructure, roads, rails etc. would cost $2 billion.

The Colonel October 9, 2014 at 8:11 pm

$600,000,000 this time around. Savannah will always require maintenance. Jasper, while not quite as maintenance free as described, will be far cheaper over time to operate, plus, there are no obstructions all the way to the ocean. The only down side is the distance inland the shops must travel.

Jock Stender, Charleston October 9, 2014 at 8:47 pm

What’s “JET”?

Bible Thumper October 9, 2014 at 8:54 pm

JET is your auto correction of JMT (proposed Jasper Marine Terminal).

Jock Stender, Charleston October 9, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Thanks for that.

Jock Stender, Charleston October 9, 2014 at 10:39 pm

Steamship lines with marine terminal / stevedoring subsidiaries (e.g., Wallenius Wilhelmsen) and independent marine terminal operators (e.g., Pasha Group) are not dissuaded from investing their own capital in such “landlord” terminals when given long-term commitments (leases) by the port authorities.

Similarly, shippers with an interest in driving down costs are willing to invest long-term (Toyota in Baltimore;

See the analysis of “landlord” versus “operating” ports at

Such long-term financing is what investment banks are all about.

The SCSPA isn’t the only entity capable of issuing long-term bonds for large capital improvements, but is loathe to do so if any benefit can flow to private companies — including its own customers, the steamship lines and shippers.

Jock Stender, Charleston

euwe max October 9, 2014 at 6:57 pm

if you can’t shoot or bomb your way out of it, all you can do is piss your pants.

Bible Thumper October 9, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Why is competition good for every other economic activity, but not ports? Bring it on JaxPort and Savannah. Consumers, importers and exporters all benefit. The more the merrier.

euwe max October 9, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Bush wanted to sell one to Dubai.

Bible Thumper October 9, 2014 at 8:11 pm

To bad they didn’t. They would’ve taken a beating like the Japanese did when they were buying up American real estate in the nineties. We would’ve been able to buy it back for pennies on the dollar.

euwe max October 9, 2014 at 8:13 pm

They’d have sold it to ISIS.

They need a landing site for their “navy.”

Bible Thumper October 9, 2014 at 8:53 pm

Maybe they will leave us alone if we offer them our women.

euwe max October 9, 2014 at 8:59 pm

From what I hear, they think our women are sluts.

Florida October 9, 2014 at 9:47 pm

We are scared, not!

euwe max October 9, 2014 at 10:46 pm

Here’s something to *fear*!

2014 is the first year in 666 years that Halloween falls on Friday the 13th!

Extraordinary Mediocracy October 9, 2014 at 11:24 pm

That’s great. More stuff coming into Charleston. Then where’s it going to go? It gets trucked out on some of the worst roadways in the nation, which is more damaging to the roads. They might as well have never paved I-95. The upkeep of a dirt road would be easier and at least we’d know that the road got scraped now and then.


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