Whose is bigger? McClatchy takes a long look at U.S. port depths and locations

If you’re interested in the ongoing debates, controversies, costs, and risks regarding dredging the Savannah River from 42′ to 47′, check out this interesting piece today by Curtis Tate of McClatchy Newspapers: As states seek funds for deeper ports, will ships come in?

From the piece (emphasis added):

States with seaports along the Atlantic are asking for hundreds of millions of federal dollars to deepen their harbors and shipping channels to accommodate the bigger ships and capture a slice of the growing traffic.

But some global supply-chain experts say the optimistic pre-recession projections of a huge shift in cargo from West Coast ports to East Coast ports no longer add up. Even the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which conducts feasibility studies for such projects and often does the dredging, expects little change in cargo volume at those ports.

And this:

Republican governors in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, who were elected on platforms of fiscal conservatism, are still hoping that the federal government will pay for some of the cost of the harbor-deepening projects. But just in case the federal funding doesn’t come through, these states have a backup plan: Spend state taxpayers’ money.

And this:

Jean-Paul Rodrigue, a transportation scholar at Hofstra University, said it didn’t make sense for Charleston, Savannah and Miami all to have deeper harbors without more business.

“You need a lot of volume,” he said. “It’s not certain those ports can generate that level of volume.”

The piece also makes a great point about the uncertainty regarding the costs bigger ships will have to pay to use the widened Panama Canal after 2014. While the wider canal might accommodate bigger ships, there’s no guarantee that it will actually transport more cargo than is currently passing through. Many shippers might decide to continue to use West Coast ports as they do now.

An interesting read, for sure, and one that has been distributed to papers all over the nation.