CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- A massive container ship terminal planned by South Carolina and Georgia is expected to cost a billion dollars less than an initial projection, but construction permits need to be applied for quickly, the joint board overseeing the project was told Tuesday.
The board, comprised of members of both states, is working to build the 1,500-acre Jasper Ocean Terminal in Jasper County on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River just downstream from Savannah, Ga.
While Savannah and Charleston are in heated competition for shipping business, the two states have agreed to work together on the new terminal.
The panel Tuesday heard an update on an analysis done five years ago on the need for and cost of the terminal. The updated report concluded the terminal is viable based on projected demand, building costs and projected income.
The 2008 report estimated it would cost upward to $4.5 billion based on building the entire terminal at once and having it completed by this year. The new analysis found that, if built in phases to meet demand over 17 years to build out, the terminal would cost an estimated $3.3 billion.
"You will have delayed the expenditures until you really need them which is a cost savings," said Walter Kemmsies, the chief economist at Moffat & Nichols in New York.
The first analysis estimated the terminal would be needed around 2027 when current port capacity in Savannah and Charleston is used up, he said. The new analysis found that, taking into account the recent economic slowdown, that date has been pushed back to 2031.
However, Kemmsies said ports don't want to wait until their capacity is entirely gone and said the new port will be needed by 2025 when Charleston and Savannah will likely be operating at about 80 percent capacity.
The analysis estimates it will take 13 years from applying for the needed permits until the terminal opens. That means the board is already late in applying for the needed construction permits because the terminal would not be open until 2026.
"We're about a year off schedule based on the analysis we have made," Kemmsies said.
He added delays could cost the terminal business because cargo will begin moving through other ports and, once it does, it is difficult to gain it back.
David Posek of South Carolina, the chairman of the joint board, suggested the latest analysis be reviewed by financial experts at both state port agencies. The panel took no action on Tuesday and will consider the final report at its meeting in Savannah in June.