Located on the southeast coast of Florida, Port of Miami is one of the top 10 cargo container ports in the United States and is the largest container port in Florida. The Port carries the dual distinction of "Cruise Capital of the World" and "Cargo Gateway of the Americas."
The Port is also located in the center of a unique and diverse ecosystem. Biscayne Bay surrounds the Port and portions of the Bay have been designated as a National Park, a Florida Aquatic Preserve, an Outstanding Florida Water, and a state Critical Wildlife Area.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a decades-long history of working with the Port and the City of Miami community. In 2012 the President of the United States took interest in this work, which was developing plans to deepen the Port and allow for a post-Panamax era of shipping commerce.
As part of its 2012 We Can’t Wait initiative, the White House Administration announced that seven nationally and regionally significant infrastructure projects would be expedited to help modernize and expand five major ports in the United States, including the Port of Miami.
“One way to help American businesses grow and hire is to modernize our infrastructure. …I asked my Administration to identify important projects across the country where Federal review could be expedited. Today’s commitment to move these port projects forward faster will help drive job growth and strengthen the economy.” -- President Obama
Following this announcement, the Corps took expedited actions to ensure work could begin and be completed in time for the Panama Canal expansion completion in 2015/16. The project will enable the port to accommodate larger cargo vessels and other ships, ultimately facilitating a more efficient movement of goods and services. The super-sized Panamax vessels will be more than twice the size of the current ships that pass through the canal and will make overseas commerce more economical and efficient. Port Miami is one of four Eastern Seaboard ports that will be deepened to accommodate the larger vessels.
Through a progressive partnership with the State of Florida, which provided funds needed to construct the project, the time frame for the Port construction was advanced by years. In 2013, the Corps awarded a contract to the Great Lakes Dredge & Dock (GLD&D) Corporation to deepen the harbor. The project will bring the harbor to a depth of minus 50/52 feet to accommodate larger vessels that will sail through the expanded Panama Canal. The Corps anticipates completion of the contract in July 2015.
A dredging project of this magnitude – in one of the heaviest trafficked shipping lanes in the world – is a complex challenge. In addition to the dredging operations, the Corps is working closely with GLD&D and many federal and state agencies on environmental mitigation and monitoring operations to minimize the impact of the work on the area’s fragile marine ecosystem. The Corps believes that modernizing the nation’s infrastructure, in an environmentally savvy way, is essential to the country’s sustainment.
The GLD&D hopper dredge Terrapin Island arrived on site in November 2013 to start initial dredging operations and completed the first phase of the project. The main dredge that GLD&D will utilize during the project’s duration is the cutter suction dredge Texas. The dredging area is made up of a hard limestone seabed and the heavy ladder and high cutter of the Texas makes it an ideal vessel to conduct these operations, according to GLDD. In addition to the Texas, GLDD will have the spider barge 175, two new 700 series and five 30 and 60 series scows on site to help remove the dredged materials, along with a fleet of survey and project support vessels. Click GLD&D for photos and details.
The Corps’ priorities throughout this project are to apply the highest safety and environmental standards, and proactively communicate with the Port, Federal, State and local agencies, stakeholders, and the general community on the project’s progress.