The growing trend towards larger cargo vessels has initiated a number of dredging projects around the world. Panamax ships require a 50 foot draft; many ports in the US, in partnership with the US Army Corps of Engineers, are focusing on increasing the depth of their navigation channels.
One such project in the Port of New York and New Jersey has just been completed. With a price tag of $2.1 billion, the latest New York Harbor infrastructure project, called the Main Navigation Channel Deepening program, was the last link in a larger chain. The entire project which provides 38 miles of federal navigation channels at a depth of 50 feet took 25 years and, according to Maritime Professional.com, cost $6 billion in public and private investment funds.
The Panamax vessels are expected to bring an economic benefit to the entire region. The Port supports 336,000 jobs and brings in billions of dollars in commerce each year. Larger ships, of course, mean more cargo to handle, store and transport, assuring continuing employment and development in the port area.
An associated project, raising the Bayonne Bridge from 151 to 215 feet is expected to have a late 2017 completion. It will allow access to the full port area for Panamax ships. At present the Port Newark and Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal in New Jersey and Howland Hook Marine Terminal in Staten Island cannot be approached by the deeper-draft vessels.
Other benefits to the project are environmental. The larger vessels are newer and, thus, have been built with more fuel-efficient engines and are equipped with up-to-date emission control systems. As well, sand dredged from the channels was employed to restore marsh habitats at several locations.