Biden: 'The future like the past, remains on the high seas'

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Vice President Joe Biden was in Charleston Monday to speak about the importance of deepening the Charleston Harbor with the modernization of the Panama Canal on the horizon.

"With the modernization of the Panama Canal, we're going to be able to handle ships that are 160 feet wide," Biden said Monday afternoon at the Port of Charleston.  "50-foot-deep channels will be required; already, some of these ships are coming through the Suez, and across the Atlantic. And already, you're taking care of some of them."

Biden emphasized that the future, like the past "remains on the high seas," and said 75% of all the commerce in the world resides with ships. Biden also touched upon the Army Corps of Engineers study of deepening the Charleston Harbor, and gave his prediction of the study.

"You should never pre-empt a study, but I can tell you what the study is going to say, 'You better deepen it to 50 ft. It better happen,'" Biden said."Or guess what? You're going to be left behind, because other ports in the East Coast are going ahead and doing it."

The vice president is now expected to travel to Savannah where he is expected to also speak on growing American jobs by investing in ports. Both cities are among East Coast ports scrambling for funding to deepen their harbors to make room for larger cargo ships.

According to Biden, with the modernization of the Panama Canal in 2015, commerce will increase vastly with trade doubling in 2025 and doubling again in 2040. Biden said in closing, that every time there's an investment in infrastructure, the economy grows and "grows good decent paying jobs."

"We've got to find the resources to do it, because it pays back multiple dividends to the economy and to the people of South Carolina and the country," Biden said. 

Bernard Groseclose, former chief executive of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, says it's likely no coincidence Biden is visiting both ports on the same day given the competitive - and sometimes combative - history between the shipping rivals.

Copyright 2013 WCSC. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.