A massive shipping port on the South Carolina side of Savannah River would be a financially viable project, but officials must move quickly to make sure it stays that way, an analyst said Thursday.

Walter Kemmsies, chief economist at Moffat & Nichols, made the statement as part of his presentation to the Jasper Ocean Terminal Project Office, the bi-state commission charged with planning the $5 billion port in Jasper County.

“Demand does support the development of the Jasper terminal,” Kemmsies said.

The Jasper Ocean Terminal Project Office is comprised of officials from South Carolina and Georgia, longtime rivals in the Southeast maritime trade.

In October, the panel tapped Moffatt & Nichols to reassess whether and when the terminal will be economically viable.

Kemmsies presented a draft of the firm’s findings to the board during its meeting at the S.C. State Ports Authority headquarters in Charleston. The firm’s final report will be presented to the panel during its meeting in June.

Kemmsies said Tuesday that there are a number of factors that would make the Jasper port viable, including trends showing capacity topping out at existing ports in South Carolina and Georgia.

Kemmsies added that the terminal would be a viable operation by 2025, but may not open until 2026 because of the lengthy permitting processes.

“This is a concern because delays mean the cargo gets diverted to other places and once you don’t get the cargo ... our analysis says it’s hard to get the cargo back,” Kemmsies said.

The Jasper Ocean Terminal was conceived in 2008 for a 1,500-acre site that is now a dredge-spoil area downriver from the Port of Savannah.

The project is still in the early planning stages and has become entangled in controversy over a plan to deepen the river to support Savannah, a key rival for the Port of Charleston.

Reach Tyrone Richardson at 843-937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.