Costs rise, prospects dim for Georgetown port dredging

The Port of Georgetown, which handles breakbulk cargo, is gradually silting in.

As the State Ports Authority reviews fresh buyout bids for its defunct Port Royal terminal near Beaufort — four previous attempts to sell the site have unraveled since 2006 — there might be another white elephant in the making, up the coast in Georgetown.

The price tag for a dredging project at the Port of Georgetown has nearly doubled to $66 million, according to the latest Army Corps of Engineers estimate. Until now, most maritime officials and lawmakers had been working off an old estimate of $33.5 million.

Throw in ArcelorMittal’s recent decision to close its money-losing Georgetown steel mill, and the breakbulk port’s glory days are clearly behind it. The mill, which now ships in materials through Wilmington partly because of the shallow harbor outside its doors, would have to play a role if the Georgetown port were to remain vital. “Securing the funding necessary for depth restoration and annual maintenance is a challenge that will become even more significant if increased cost estimates are realized and the opportunity for steel mill cargo to return to the terminal is no longer a possibility,” Jim Newsome, SPA president and CEO, said in a statement.

State Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Murrells Inlet, was blunt about the port’s future.

“I don’t think the port is ever going to be dredged,” Cleary told the Coastal Observer newspaper.

Returning the commercial waterway to its permitted 27-foot depth appeared to be on track last year when Georgetown County voters approved a 1 percent sales tax increase to pay for infrastructure projects, including harbor dredging. That money was going to be combined with $9.5 million from the federal government and another $18.5 million set aside by state lawmakers.

The feds and the SPA have said they won’t commit to more dredging funds, and Cleary said coming up with another $32.5 million in the General Assembly is out of the question.

In addition to the dredging project, another $2 million or so each year has to be raised to maintain the harbor. No one will commit money to maintenance, however, if the big project isn’t completed first.

Meanwhile, the fast-silting harbor continues to fill. The latest estimate puts the harbor at about 19 feet.

The Charleston region, known for its expanding homegrown craft beer industry, might be getting a new brewery from across the pond.

Scotland-based Brewdog has narrowed its search to Charleston and Columbus, Ohio, as the site for its first American brewery, which will produce the company’s well-known hoppy and stout brands such as Punk IPA and Cocoa Psycho, a Russian imperial stout.

Brewdog co-owner James Watt could not be reached for comment, but last month he told U.K.-based beer blog Total Ales that Charleston is on a very short list of candidate sites. Watt visited the Charleston area in April to scout locations, according to the Columbus Business Journal.

Watt, on his Twitter feed, said May 31 that Brewdog is “close to making some exciting announcements about our big USA project. Watch this space.”

Watt and Brewdog co-owner Martin Dickie also host the “Brew Dogs” cable TV show on the Esquire channel. The pair “travel across America visiting different American beer towns, celebrating distinctive craft beers and creating their own locally inspired drafts,” according to Esquire’s website.

Brewdog is one of the U.K.’s fastest-growing companies, with sales of $45.3 million in 2014 and an operating profit of about $6 million. It has 350 employees and ships its beers to more than 50 countries.

The Dreamliner once again will soar over the Paris Air Show.

Boeing Co. announced last week that a 787-9 to be delivered to Vietnam Airlines will participate in the flying display at the big international aviation expo, which alternates between venues in London and the City of Light. This year it runs June 15-21. The 787 made its formal industry debut at the 49th Paris show when it touched down at Le Bourget Airport in June 2011.

The Chicago-based company assembles the jet in North Charleston and Everett, Wash. Boeing did not say where the Paris-bound jet was made. It’s the first of eight 787s the Southeast Asian carrier has ordered, according to the “24/7 Wall Street” website. (See page D7 for an update on 787 orders and deliveries.)

Other Boeing-related events on the schedule for this year’s expo is a Qatar Airways 787-8 that will be on static display. And China Airlines will showcase the “stylish, innovative interior” of its 777-300ER.

From the defense side of Boeing’s business, the Pentagon plans to show off the P-8A anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare aircraft, the CH-47F Chinook helicopter, and the F-15E Strike Eagle fighter, the company said.

Boeing said it will highlight its air show activities at www.boeing.com/paris2015 and via Twitter @Boeing, @Boeing Airplanes, @BoeingDefense and @BoeingFrance.

Give a pint; get into a historic Charleston tourist attraction.

Anyone who gives blood at an American Red Cross drive or donation center in the local area through the end of the month will receive a coupon for free admission to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens on the Ashley River.

Even those who stop by and for some reason aren’t able to donate can receive a coupon.

The coupons can be redeemed for admission to the S.C. Highway 61 property any time before July 31.

Jeans are coming back into style at a major private-sector employer in South Carolina.

Only, not blue jeans, in most cases.

Wal-Mart is hoping denim pants will lift the spirits of its more than 1.2 million U.S. store workers, according to a report last week from The Associated Press.

Starting July 1, workers at the nation’s largest private employer can wear khaki or black denim, in addition to the slacks of the same color allowed now.

Workers in more rigorous jobs will be able to wear T-shirts and blue jeans.

It’s among several changes Wal-Mart’s U.S. division is making in response to complaints from workers about their jobs.

The relaxation follows a dress code mandated last September that included white or navy collared shirts with khakis or black pants and a navy blue vest. Wal-Mart is paying only for the vest, triggering complaints from workers, the AP said.

The new policy doesn’t change that. Workers will still have to buy their own shirts and pants.

Kenneth Baker, Wal-Mart’s senior manager of sustainable regulation, recently told the S.C. Public Service Commission that the retail giant has more than 100 retail facilities and 26,000 workers in South Carolina.