Gov. Nathan Deal said Friday that he would support whatever is necessary to complete the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project "in a timely fashion," including the possibility of more state funding.
Deal spoke at an event at the Port of Savannah welcoming the COSCO Development, the largest container ship ever to call on the U.S. East Coast.
The harbor expansion, which will deepen the Savannah River channel to 47 feet to make way for larger ships like the Development, has increased in estimated cost. The latest figure, released in 2017, puts the price tag at $973 million, up from $706 million in 2014.
Georgia has already contributed its 25 percent share of the original cost to get the work started. State leaders have pushed for the federal government to allocate its share.
Deal said he is hopeful more federal dollars will come. He also expressed hope that the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will get funding through money set aside for the Army Corps of Engineers "for projects of high priority."
The Governor said Savannah's port belongs on that list because the state has been proactive in getting the work started. "We're not only shovel-ready; we're dredges in operation," Deal said. "We just need to finish it. And I think we are going to get great cooperation from the Corps of Engineers."
Shipping industry leaders say huge cargo ships like the Development, which is 1,201 feet long, will increasingly become the norm in the wake of the expansion of the Panama Canal. While ships that large can call at the Port of Savannah, as happened this week, they currently have to wait for high tide.