Mark Murphy: Singing the deep(water) blues on Savannah harbor project | savannahnow.com

It is 2016. The Maersk Dunbar II, a massive container ship nearly a quarter of a mile long, is plying the deep blue waters of the Atlantic.

Eight days earlier, the Dunbar II had traversed the Panama Canal. It now approaches the eastern coast of the U.S., with plans to unload its retail cargo there while taking on containers filled with U.S. exports.

The vessel’s hull, drafting some 47 feet of water, drives through the through the waves with a purpose — a purpose driven by the economics of trade, by profit calculations of analysts from Shanghai and Singapore to Hamburg, Rotterdam and Dubai.

Its sister ships — smaller by half — once called on the port of Savannah in droves. In 2013, an average of 14 ships per week that had passed through the Panama Canal unloaded cargo in Savannah.

But the Maersk Dunbar II won’t be coming to Savannah. Instead, it will unload its 12,000 containers in Norfolk, Va. — because Savannah’s harbor is, quite simply, not deep enough.

And that, as they say, is that.

If Atlanta is the beating heart of Georgia’s economy, then the Savannah River is surely its pulsating aorta. Savannah is the second-busiest container port on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, after New York City, and the fourth-busiest in the U.S.

It does more business than the ports of Miami, Port Everglades and Jacksonville combined. Through its proximity to the major interstate trucking routes (I-16 and I-95) and significant rail infrastructure, it is the easiest port in the U.S. to allow shipments to reach the major population centers of Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte, Memphis and Orlando.

The port employs 352,000 Georgians, contributes directly to $32.4 billion in the state’s annual gross domestic product (GDP) — 7.8 percent of the state’s total GDP — and has the largest concentration of distribution centers of any port on the East Coast.

Mired in politics

Nevertheless, the world’s economies are evolving. And this critical economic driver for our region and our state is in grave danger of being mired in the impenetrable morass of political intrigue that characterizes modern-day America.

via Mark Murphy: Singing the deep(water) blues on Savannah harbor project | savannahnow.com.

Gov. Deal to sign budget with $35 million more for Savannah port deepening | savannahnow.com

The $35 million in additional port deepening funds proposed by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has been approved by the state legislature and now awaits the governor’s signature.

Along with previous funding, Georgia has now allocated $266 million, fulfilling the state’s portion of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP).

“Lawmakers across Georgia recognize that improving the Savannah Harbor is critically important to the continued economic health of this state and region,” Deal said. “That unified vision is also evident among our delegation to Washington, which has worked tirelessly to secure the federal portion of the project costs. It is now long overdue for the federal government to fund their portion of this federal project to make U.S. manufactured products more competitive overseas.”

Deepening the Savannah Harbor from 42 to 47 feet will accommodate an increase in the number of super-sized container vessels transiting the Panama Canal after its 2015 expansion. With a deeper channel, larger and more heavily laden ships can arrive and depart with greater scheduling flexibility. These “Post Panamax” vessels will lower shipping costs per container slot.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study has shown that SHEP will reduce shipping costs for private companies by $174 million a year.

The new funding was part of Gov. Deal’s FY2015 budget request, and was included in the final version of the state spending plan passed by the General Assembly Tuesday.

via Gov. Deal to sign budget with $35 million more for Savannah port deepening | savannahnow.com.

Dredging Today – USA: Additional Savannah Port Expansion Funds Granted

The $35 million in additional port deepening funds proposed by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has been approved by the state legislature and now awaits the governor’s signature.

Along with previous funding, Georgia has now allocated $266 million, fulfilling the state’s portion of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP).

“Lawmakers across Georgia recognize that improving the Savannah Harbor is critically important to the continued economic health of this state and region,” Deal said. “That unified vision is also evident among our delegation to Washington, which has worked tirelessly to secure the federal portion of the project costs. It is now long overdue for the federal government to fund their portion of this federal project to make U.S. manufactured products more competitive overseas.”

Deepening the Savannah Harbor from 42 to 47 feet will accommodate an increase in the number of super-sized container vessels transiting the Panama Canal after its 2015 expansion.

With a deeper channel, larger and more heavily laden ships can arrive and depart with greater scheduling flexibility.

These “Post Panamax” vessels will lower shipping costs per container slot.

via Dredging Today – USA: Additional Savannah Port Expansion Funds Granted.

Jack Kingston: Moving forward on port project | Sunday Forum | Columbus Ledger Enquirer

Georgia will get the Savannah Harbor deepened. And we will do it despite the White House.

In 1999 Congress passed legislation to deepen the Savannah River. This is not a new concept. When James Oglethorpe sailed up the Savannah River in 1733 the depth was 12 feet. In the late 1970s when I worked on the waterfront the depth was about 33 feet. In short, we have consistently deepened the river with the advancement of deep water ships visiting the port.

Deepening our harbor has allowed Georgia to keep pace with international trade competition and the global marketplace. In fact, today Savannah is the second largest port on our East Coast. Approximately 352,000 jobs in Georgia are related to the port. For every dollar invested in deepening the river, American taxpayers will see a return of $5.50. This is why the project is supported all over the state and by Members of Congress in Georgia and public officials from both parties.

After fourteen years and nearly $50 million, the Corps of Engineers has completed the most extensive environmental study of the Savannah River estuary in history confirming the project is environmentally sound. We have overcome a lawsuit from South Carolina and myriad of other obstacles to keep the project alive. Georgia’s congressional delegation as well as state, municipal, and business leaders have met repeatedly with White House officials and been given assurance the project would receive its support.

President Barack Obama touted the project as one of his “We Can’t Wait” initiatives on the campaign trail in 2012 and even touted it on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno. Vice President Joe Biden famously professed his unwavering commitment on September 16, 2013, when, standing on the Savannah dock, he promised it would be done “come hell or high water.” He said, “It’s time we get moving. Folks, this is not a partisan issue. It is an economic issue.” He’s right. In the CSRA alone, it means 18,925 jobs.

It was therefore with shock and disappointment that the Obama administration did not back up all its talk by committing even one penny of construction money for harbor expansion in its just-released 2015 budget proposal.

In spite of this lack of support I remain optimistic and am committed to see it through in spite of the Obama Administration’s dithering.

Fortunately, we have a Plan B. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act which recently passed the House — as well as its companion legislation in the Senate — gives the deepening project the green light. This legislation is now being negotiated in conference committee and will hopefully be brought to a final vote in April.

via Jack Kingston: Moving forward on port project | Sunday Forum | Columbus Ledger Enquirer.

Gigantic cranes to give Port Canaveral a lift | FLORIDA TODAY | floridatoday.com

As Port Canaveral officials watched the arrival of port’s two new cargo cranes, they hoped they also were witnessing a turning point in their relatively small cargo business.

By acquiring the ship-to-shore cranes, Port Canaveral is stepping up its game in the fierce competition for cargo business, according to Alberto Cabrera, the port’s recently hired senior director of cargo business development.

Cabrera, who previously was a top cargo executive at the cargo-heavy Port of Jacksonville, said, without ship-to-shore cranes, Port Canaveral “was not on the radar” with many shipping companies and was not considered a serious player in the cargo business. In contrast, Canaveral is one of the world’s three busiest cruise ports, along with Port of Miami and Port Everglades.

Port Canaveral officials say the crane project is budgeted for $3.5 million, including acquisition of the cranes, design work, transportation of the cranes to Port Canaveral and upgrades to the cranes.

A skilled crane operator can unload 30 to 40 cargo containers from a cargo ship every hour, saving time and money for the shippers, Cabrera said.

“When you don’t have cranes in the air, you’re not a competitor” for cargo, Cabrera said.

The arrival of the 273-foot-tall cranes are the first piece of the puzzle that port officials hope will make Port Canaveral not only a player, but a star, in cargo.

Others include:

• Anticipated completion in April of a new $37 million cargo pier complex.The cranes, which previously were used at the Port of Savannah in Georgia, will be set up at that site, and, after upgrading, will go into operation this fall.

via Gigantic cranes to give Port Canaveral a lift | FLORIDA TODAY | floridatoday.com.

Black preschoolers more likely to face suspension | savannahnow.com

WASHINGTON — Black students are more likely to be suspended from U.S. public schools — even as tiny preschoolers.

The racial disparities in American education, from access to high-level classes and experienced teachers to discipline, were highlighted in a report released Friday by the Education Department’s civil rights arm.

The suspensions — and disparities — begin at the earliest grades.

Black children represent about 18 percent of children enrolled in preschool programs in schools, but almost half of the students suspended more than once, the report said. Six percent of the nation’s districts with preschools reported suspending at least one preschool child.

Advocates long have said get-tough suspension and arrest policies in schools have contributed to a “school-to-prison” pipeline that snags minority students, but much of the emphasis has been on middle school and high school policies. This was the first time the department reported data on preschool discipline.

via Black preschoolers more likely to face suspension | savannahnow.com.

Bill expanding gun carry rights in Ga. passes | savannahnow.com

ATLANTA — People with a license to carry a weapon could bring their guns into some houses of worship under legislation adopted by Georgia lawmakers.

The state House gave final passage Thursday to legislation that would eliminate a blanket restriction on carrying guns in church. It would allow congregations to decide whether they want to allow weapons into their sanctuaries.

via Bill expanding gun carry rights in Ga. passes | savannahnow.com.

Great white shark Mary Lee pings offshore of Savannah | savannahnow.com

She’s back. Great white shark Mary Lee pinged off the coast of Savannah around 4 p.m. today, according to OCEARCH.org.

The 16-foot, 3,5000-pound great white checked in via a satellite tag attached to her dorsal fin. Researchers with the nonprofit Ocearch map her travels along the Eastern Seaboard, as well as several other sharks.

via Great white shark Mary Lee pings offshore of Savannah | savannahnow.com.

Ga. lawmakers finish session, head into campaigns | savannahnow.com

ATLANTA — Members of the Georgia General Assembly are ready to begin their campaigns for another term, fresh off a legislative session highlighted by scads of campaign-friendly maneuvers.

Improving tax revenues bolstered a $42.4 billion state operating budget and allowed Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and legislators to increase public education spending by hundreds of millions of dollars. Much of the new discretionary money will pay for a longer school year, shore up education employees’ health insurance programs and finance construction.

The Republican-dominated body also reeled off a conservative checklist that will appeal to their core supporters. They adopted measures to underscore their opposition to President Barack Obama and his health insurance overhaul. They voted to expand the places where people with a license to carry a weapon can take their guns, including bars. Religious leaders will be able to decide whether to allow people to carry guns in their sanctuaries.

Democrats, despite being an overwhelming minority, got in on the action, too, by securing increases for the popular HOPE scholarship program for the second year in a row.

And legislators from both parties rushed to approve a constitutional amendment that would cap the state’s personal income tax at 6 percent. Voters will have their say in November, alongside elections for governor, other statewide executives and the entire legislature.

House Speaker David Ralston hailed the session as a success, though he rejected the notion that the agenda had anything to do with the coming campaigns. “I think Georgians are pleased with the direction the state is headed,” said Ralston.

via Ga. lawmakers finish session, head into campaigns | savannahnow.com.

$21 billion state budget aims to have a little something for everyone | savannahnow.com

ATLANTA — As lawmakers arrived home from the 2014 legislative session that ended at midnight Thursday, many were bringing the bacon with them from Atlanta.

The $21 billion budget the General Assembly passed for the fiscal year starting July 1 has something for everyone thanks for significant increases in tax collections and improving emergency reserves.

To stoke the fires of the state’s No. 2 economic engine, $35 million is going toward preparing the Port of Savannah for bigger ships. On Wednesday, the day after the legislature passed the budget, Gov. Nathan Deal highlighted the investment when he addressed an international logistics conference.

“The future is bright for our deepwater ports, which last year set new records in both imports and exports,” he said. “We are working diligently to get our harbor deepened.

Addressing long-range job creation, the budget includes $579 million in additional spending on education, the largest single category of increase and the biggest boost in K-12 funding in seven years. Lawmakers left it to local school boards whether to spend that on teacher pay raises, restoring days of instruction or other expenditures.

Another $5 million will go toward technical-college courses in welding, health care technology, diesel mechanics and information technology. Students can get training in those fields for free.

The budget also increased the benefits from the HOPE grant to other technical-college students as well as the HOPE scholarship for university students.

There is $16.3 million for local school construction, plus $2.5 million for faster Internet connections and $2 million for computers in public libraries.

“It’s been our commitment as a party and as legislators to give back when we can,” said Sen. Tyler Harper, R-Ocilla.

via $21 billion state budget aims to have a little something for everyone | savannahnow.com.