Gov. Nikki Haley appointed a member of the Savannah River Maritime Commission to fill an empty seat on the panel in charge of planning a $5 billion shipping port with Georgia in Jasper County, officials said.

Colden R. Battey Jr., a Beaufort attorney, was tapped to take the place of Bill Bethea, a Bluffton lawyer who resigned his seat on the six-member panel in October.

The Jasper Terminal Project Office is a bi-state commission charged with planning a shipping port for the South Carolina side of the Savannah River.

The port, proposed for a 1,500-acre site that is now a dredge-spoil area down river from the Port of Savannah, is a joint project between South Carolina and Georgia, longtime rivals in the Southeast maritime trade.

Battey’s appointment was announced during at a State Ports Authority board meeting last week.

Battey, 77, had been a member of the Savannah River Maritime Commission, the state panel overseeing South Carolina’s interests on the river. He vacated his seat on that panel, and SPA board vice chairman John F. Hassell III was named to succeed him.

Battey said Thursday that he looks forward to making progress with the Jasper port.

“It’s an excellent site for (a port), and I hope we can work together to bring it to fruition,” he said.

Battey’s prior involvement in the state’s maritime industry came when then-Gov. Mark Sanford appointed him to the SPA in 2005. He served on the board until 2011. Battey is also a former Beaufort County Council chairman.

Bethea, his predecessor on the Jasper port commission, abruptly resigned the South Carolina seat in mid-October with no explanation. He made headlines this year when he differed with David Posek, the state’s other appointee, and SPA Chairman Bill Stern, about whether the panel had the authority to vote on a dredging-related matter.

Bethea voted with the Georgia delegation. Posek and Stern abstained.

The port project remains in the early planning stages and has become tangled in controversy over a plan to deepen the river to support maritime operations in Savannah, a key rival for the Port of Charleston, which also is racing to deepen its shipping channel.

Both ports want to be able to compete for the wave of longer, heavier containerships that are projected to come to the East Coast once the Panama Canal is expanded in roughly two years.

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