South Carolina’s Jasper County Council is demanding action on plans to build a new container terminal on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River, downstream from the Port of Savannah.
The county has been promoting development of the Jasper Ocean Terminal for many years on the north bank of the river, on land that was used by the Georgia Ports Authority for disposal of dredge materials.
Andrew Fulghum, administrator for Jasper County, said years of verbal sparring about the need for the project and litigation over the property came to an end in 2007 when the governors of the two states—at that time Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Sonny Perdue of Georgia--agreed to form a “Joint Project Office (JPO) to pursue development of the site.
Fulghum said JPO has “made great progress, but not fast enough.”
When JPO was created, he said a list of tasks were supposed to be completed in 24 months, but Fulghum said “that was back in 2007 and it is five and a half years later and they have not completed half of them.”
He said the county has every indication that the current governors of the state, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Nathan Deal of Georgia, support eventual development of Jasper terminal and are allowing JPO to work through the process.
A detailed study performed for JPO by Moffatt and Nichol completed in April has shown the terminal makes economic sense, he said, and will have a net present value of $500 million to $3 billion and will ultimately create about 1 million jobs.
The estimated time for the project to come on line is 2026, said Fulghum, because that's when the ports of Savannah and Charleston are expected to be at about 80 percent of capacity.
Fulghum said when JPO met in June, county officials expected it would begin the permitting process.
“Moffatt and Nichol have told the board that if they don’t start the permitting process this year, they won’t be in a position to have it online in 2026. It’s not a commitment that they have to build it, but if they don’t start the permitting process now, they are going to forgo that opportunity,” he said.
Instead, JPO voted to commission another study, one on channel capacity.
So Fulghum said the local county council passed a resolution
giving JPO an ultimatum to start the permitting process at its meeting on Sept. 17 in Charleston or the county will “demand conveyance of the site and all associated assets to Jasper County.”
He said the council is basing its demand on the South Carolina statute
setting up the JPO which reads in part “If it is determined that a partner to an agreement to develop the port is not meeting its obligations that will result in the port not being developed in an expeditious manner, then the authority must take all available and necessary action to compel the partner to meet its obligations and, if necessary, terminate the agreement and transfer to Jasper County the assets and right to develop the port.”
Before the Joint Project Office was formed, Jasper County had held discussions with SSA Marine (SSA is now part of the Carrix joint venture with Goldman Sachs) about having them develop a private terminal at the site.
Despite the slowdown in container trade, Fulghum noted there still appears to be strong interest by private companies in developing container terminals, pointing to the recent interest by companies in operating the marine terminals of the Virginia Port Authority in Hampton Roads. - Chris Dupin