When Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford in March 2007 jointly announced plans to build a new container port in Jasper County, S.C., just downriver from the Port of Savannah, it looked like two strong governors had decided to put aside rivalries between their states and take the long-term view that growing world trade and an enlarged Panama Canal would lift both their boats.
Two years later, things don't look so peachy-keen. Cargo volumes are down at both ports and Maersk Line announced plans to leave the port of Charleston.
Trying to keep some Maersk services and attracting new business to Charleston are among the challenges facing Jim Newsome, the Hapag-Lloyd executive who was appointed in June to succeeded Bernard S. Groseclose Jr. who resigned as head of the South Carolina State Ports Authority in January.
Sanford suffered a defeat in June when the South Carolina's House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to override his veto of a law that he said would 'effectively eliminate' his power to remove board members. And his star has fallen with his admission of an extramarital affair.
In July, some members of the South Carolina legislature and Savannah River Maritime Commission ' a South Carolina board ' questioned plans to deepen the river to the Georgia Ports Authority docks in Savannah, fearing it would hurt Charleston. The Savannah Morning News called critics of the plan to dredge the Savannah River 'port wreckers,' saying that without the business in Savannah to justify it, it was unlikely the Army Corps of Engineers would approve a deep channel to the new site in Jasper.
Strong leadership from the governors may be needed again to the keep the Jasper project on track. (Chris Dupin)