The project to make Virginia the East Coast’s deepest port launched 2.5 years early.
The dredging project to make Virginia the East Coast’s deepest port has begun nearly two-and-a-half years earlier than expected, The Port of Virginia announced on [December 2, 2019].
Dredging work started Dec. 2 to deepen the western side of Thimble Shoal Channel to 56 feet for commercial channels. After the dredging, the Norfolk Harbor will be able to host two ultra-large container vessels.
“This project, combined with all of the investments we are making at our terminals, tells the ocean carriers ‘we are ready for your big ships,’” Virginia Port Authority CEO and president John F. Reinhart said in a statement. “The container ships are getting bigger and require more water depth to safely operate and we are committed to working with our customers to meet their needs today, tomorrow and decades from now.”
The port authority and New Jersey-based Weeks Marine finalized the $78 million contract in October for the first phase of work. The total cost of the project, including preliminary engineering and design work, is $350 million and is set to be completed by 2024.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and The Port of Virginia began discussing the project in 2015 and agreed to share the cost of evaluating the benefits of dredging the Norfolk Harbor to a depth beyond 50 feet.
The project was able to begin early due to support from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and support from state and federal officials, according to the Port of Virginia.
The VPA owns and operates four general cargo facilities: Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal and the Virginia Inland Port in Warren County. The Port of Virginia system also includes Richmond Marine Terminal.
“We are positioning ourselves to be the East Coast’s premier trade gateway,” Reinhart said in a statement. “Deep, wide channels will support many Virginia businesses and fuel cargo growth, job creation and economic investment across the Commonwealth.”