The Federal Government of the US has set aside $138m for the deepening project of Charleston Harbor in the state of South Carolina.

Allocation made in the President’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget will enable the project eligible for direct appropriations by Congress through the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill this year.

The Charleston Harbor Deepening Project involves increasing the depth of the harbour to 52ft to enable it to handle larger ships.

South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) board chair Bill Stern said: “Federal funding at such a high level reflects the importance of our project to the nation and supports the continued progress of construction to 52ft.”

Last year, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recalculated the benefit-to-cost ratio (BCR) of the project to a new score of 6.4, fulfilling the minimum threshold to be considered for the President’s Budget.

The new BCR was determined based on the growth of SCPA’s container cargo volume growth, which surpassed the estimates used in the original 2012 study.

“Federal funding at such a high level reflects the importance of our project to the nation and supports the continued progress of construction to 52ft.”

SCPA president and CEO Jim Newsome said: “By 2021, SCPA and the state will have invested more than $2bn in port infrastructure to support the booming growth of both population and manufacturing in the region.

“Our deepening project answers the need for a Southeastern port to handle 14,000 to 18,000 twenty-foot equivalent container unit (TEU) vessels drafting 50ft or more without significant depth and other navigation restrictions.”

In February last year, construction work began on the Charleston Harbor Entrance Channel. Deepening the harbour up to the Wando Welch, SCPA’s busiest container terminal, is expected to be completed by early 2021.

The project received $41.4m in new funding from USACE in November.