Dredging has started on the first of two improvement projects to deepen the Port Authority's container terminal channels from 40 feet to 45 feet, matching the depth of the Houston Ship Channel. The contractor has been onsite preparing the dredge material placement areas to receive material since May. The Barbours Cut Channel is being dredged first to ready it for the arrival of new container cranes. Dredging will begin on the Bayport Channel in fall 2014.
"It was a great team effort between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Port Authority to get these projects under way," Port Commission Chairman Janiece Longoria stated. "The Corps produced an economic analysis report, which found that the minimum net benefits of the improved Bayport and Barbours Cut channels to the U.S. economy will be $2.9 million per month or about $35 million a year. The commencement of this project confirms that the Port of Authority is committed and ready to handle larger container ships in Houston."
The projects will be completed using a combination of electric- and diesel-powered dredges, working around the clock and weather permitting. The channels will also be widened or realigned by up to 100 feet to better accommodate the post-Panamax ships. These vessels can carry more than twice as much container cargo as Panamax ships, with capacity for 8,500 or greater TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units, a container measure).
About half of the expected 6 million yards of total material collected from the two channels will be for beneficial use to raise levees to increase capacity.
The Port Authority is funding the projects at its sole cost to ensure the channels are ready in advance of the opening of an expanded Panama Canal in 2016. The work is expected to be completed in the third quarter of next year.