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Charleston Harbor Becomes Deepest Port on the East Coast with Completion of the Post 45 Harbor Deepening Project

CHARLESTON, SC — Charleston Harbor is now the deepest port on the East Coast at 52 feet. Gov. Henry McMaster, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Tim Scott, Rep. Nancy Mace, state leaders, representatives from the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA), and other partner agencies who helped the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District, make this project a reality gathered to celebrate the last dredged scoop of sediment in the deepening construction.

Graham, who pulled the lever starting the deepening construction in 2018 in another milestone celebration, stood onstage once again, but this time to help commemorate its completion. Pulling the same lever, Graham made history for South Carolina.

“It is a truly historical moment to be celebrating this monumental achievement. Charleston Harbor has been deepened to 52 feet,” said Barbara Melvin, CEO and President of the SCPA. “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.”

Beginning in 2011, the $580 million Post 45 Harbor Deepening Project aimed to deepen Charleston Harbor from 45 feet to 52 feet. The additional depth allows for the largest fully loaded container ships in the world to call on the port, no matter the tide. With the completion of the project, Charleston is now seeing record-breaking levels of cargo traveling through its port, and new businesses are taking advantage of the depth.

“Many great things come from humble beginnings, and Charleston Harbor is no exception. In 1760, during the age of sail, the harbor averaged a depth of only 12 feet,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Johannes, Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District. “Today, the Army Corps of Engineers, working with our great partners, has deepened Charleston Harbor to a depth of 52 feet and the harbor can now safely accommodate the largest cargo ships in the world at any time, thus strengthening the economy of South Carolina and the nation.”

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Over 250 years, Charleston harbor was deepened eight times to accommodate the world’s rapidly growing cargo vessels.

“South Carolina can now proudly say that we have the deepest harbor on the East Coast,” McMaster said. “The 52-foot depth gives South Carolina a major edge in recruiting new jobs and investment while announcing to the world that this is the place to do business.”

Throughout the course of the Post 45 project, an array of new businesses moved to South Carolina to benefit from this depth. Less than 50 miles from the Port of Charleston, a new 624-acre industrial campus opened with a Walmart distribution facility. Major auto manufacturers like Volvo, BMW, and Mercedes located their new electric vehicle production plants in the state. The growth is not only in large corporations, as a host of small businesses who support the growing port have opened here.

The SCPA is one of the largest economic drivers in the state, providing over $60 billion in statewide economic impact. More than one in 10 jobs in the state are directly related to port activities. The port has set record numbers of imports nearly every month for the past two years and recently opened the new Hugh K. Leatherman terminal in 2021.

The USACE team worked to complete the project on time and on budget, and it was the first large navigation project in the nation to be completed under the Corps’ streamlined civil works planning process. The team was comprised of engineers, navigation specialists, scientists, economists, planners, and project managers from across USACE. The deepening occurred over the course of seven district commanders, and three of them returned to join Johannes for the celebration.

Elected leaders, including Sen. Graham and his staff and Melvin, frequently attended meetings and updates with stakeholders. Their attendance was driven by a collective understanding this project had to be completed.

“When we started this project in 2011, we understood that failure was simply not an option,” Graham said. “The future of jobs, in every corner of our state and across a range of industries from manufacturing to agriculture to everything in between, hung in the balance. Today, we take time to remember the important milestones, look back at the hard work that brought us to this point, and celebrate our success in completing this project.”

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