SAVANNAH, Ga.—The Port of Savannah continues to attract attention from high-ranking government officials as Vice President Joe Biden visited here Sept. 16.
Joined by Georgia Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Fox, the Vice President gave a speech at the Georgia Ports Authority's Garden City Ocean Terminal. He discussed the importance of infrastructure investment to exports, economic competitiveness, and job creation.
"I've been fighting for the expansion and modernization of ports my entire career," he said, mentioning the need to deepen ports around the country.
"The growth in the Southeast is gigantic...and what you do here is absolutely amazing," Biden said. "It's one thing to read about the fastest-growing container port in the country, but it's another thing to see it."
The Vice President also mentioned the need to deepen the Savannah harbor.
"Why have we grown as a nation? We've grown because of our railroads, our highways, our ports, our locks, our dams," Biden said. "…Seventy-five percent of all the commerce in the world is in the belly or deck of a ship floating out there on the high seas. And what are we doing? We're arguing about whether or not to deepen this port another  feet? Folks, look, it's time we get moving… It's time to go. And folks, this is not a partisan issue, it's an economic issue."
Biden mentioned President Barrack Obama's "We Can't Wait" initiative, which calls for the expedition of nationally and regionally significant infrastructure projects to help modernize and expand five major ports in the U.S.—the ports of Savannah, Jacksonville, Miami, New York/New Jersey, and Charleston.
The Vice President's visit to Savannah is part of a series of port visits this month. Biden also visited the Port of Charleston Sept. 16 and the Port of Baltimore on Sept. 9. He also is scheduled to travel to Panama and Mexico this week.
The Port of Savannah, along with other Southeast ports, is preparing to accommodate increased freight volumes expected to move through the Panama Canal when a major expansion project there will be completed in 2015.
According to a press release from the Vice President's office, the Panama Canal Expansion will nearly triple the capacity of the canal and will allow significantly larger and deeper draft ships to call on U.S. ports. The cargo volume these ships carry will create increased opportunity in the region and can open whole new export markets for U.S. businesses.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District is the lead federal agency for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP)—a plan to deepen the Savannah shipping channel from -42 feet to -47 feet to accommodate larger ships that will travel through the expanded Panama Canal.
According to a 13-year study, the Corps estimates the SHEP will yield a cost-to-benefit ratio of 5.5 to 1—essentially, for every $1 taxpayers invest in the $652 million project, the nation will receive $5.5 in return. The estimated annual net benefit throughout the life of the project is $172 million.
The SHEP was formally approved by the federal government in October 2012 and currently awaits a funding authorization from Congress before construction can begin.
Learn more about the SHEP at www.sas.usace.army.mil.