Channel Specs - SC Ports Authority

Channel Specs

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With the deepest water in the South Atlantic, Charleston offers a maintained harbor of -45 feet (13.7 meters) of depth at mean low tide throughout the main shipping channel and -47 feet (14.3 m) in the entrance channel. A five to six foot tidal lift provides even deeper access for several hours during the day. Harbor deepening to 52 feet is currently underway; the following chart illustrates Charlestons current big ship handling capability throughout the day:

Vessel Drafts43 Ft44 Ft45 Ft46 Ft47 Ft48 Ft
Vessel Movement Hours Per Day24 Hrs18 Hrs14 Hrs10 Hrs6 Hrs2 Hrs

Channel Depth (mean low water):

Map of Charleston Harbor
  • Entrance Channel 47 ft (14.3m)
  • Harbor channel and dockside 45 ft (13.7m)
  • Soft mud bottom

Channel Width:

  • Minimum 500 feet (152m)
  • Maximum 1,000 feet (304.8m)

Tidal Currents:

Average 1.5 knots.

Columbus Street Terminal has no air draft limitations. Vessels access the ports largest facility, the Wando Welch Terminal, as well as the new terminal under construction at the former Navy Base, by sailing underneath the Ravenel Bridge, which allows for 186 feet (56.7 m) of vertical clearance at mean high water. Ships sailing to North Charleston Terminal transit underneath the Don Holt Bridge, with 155 feet (47.24 m) of air draft.


Ravenel Bridge
Air draft 186 ft (56.6m) MHW
NOAA Air Gap Report – Ravenel Bridge

Don Holt Bridge (North Charleston Terminal Only)
Air draft 155 ft (47.24m) MHW
NOAA Air Gap Report – Don Holt Bridge


NOAA 11524 and 1 1 526.


Required. Charleston Branch Pilot’s Association.


U.S. Coast Guard regulations apply.

Tug and Tow:

Available 24-hours-a-day.


Available at dock.

Fuel is only pumped via barge and not across the dock at all SCPA facilities.

Radio Contacts:

Harbor Pilots: VHF Channels 13, 14, 16
Moran Towing: VHF Channel 19A
McAllister Towing: VHF Channel 7A


Available on request or click to view online.