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Miami Harbor Deepening

Port of Miami

 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.

Port Miami Project History

  • In 1990, in response to the need for continued growth of the Port to meet the demands of the passenger and commercial shipping industries, Congress authorized the deepening and expansion of the Port to 42 feet.
  • Phase I, in which the Port deepened the entrance channel and Fisher Island turning basin, was completed in 1993.
  • Phase II, a $40 million project to address the South Harbor, was initiated in the mid 1990s and was unable to be completed due to the hardness of the rock. In 2000, the Port approached the Jacksonville District to complete the construction. Construction began in June 2005 and was completed in July 2006.
  • Phase III began in 2012. The plan includes components to widen and deepen the Entrance Channel, deepen Government Cut, deepen and widen Fisher Island Turning Basin, relocate the west end of the Main Channel (no dredging involved), and deepen and widen Fisherman's Channel and the Lummus Island Turning Basin. The project will enable the port to accommodate larger cargo vessels and other ships, ultimately facilitating a more efficient movement of goods. Through a progressive partnership with the State of Florida, which has provided all the funds needed to construct the project, the time frame for its construction has been advanced by years.
  • 2013 Deepening contract award summary. The Corps of Engineers awarded a $122 million contract on May 16, 2013, to Great Lakes Dredge & Dock to deepen Miami Harbor. The Corps subsequently awarded two options; $51.9 million and $31.7 million option to GLD&D for the project, bringing the total contract value to $205.6 million. The Corps anticipates completion of the contract in July 2015. 

Fact Sheet

Port of Miami Fact sheet

Progress Update

Dredging continues in Cut 1 and 2 with the hydraulic cutterhead dredge Texas and Clamshell dredge 55. Approximately 1,644,000 cubic yards has been dredged to date. Approximately 5 acres of artificial reef mitigation has been created offshore using quarried limestone boulders. Additional acreage will be created. Seagrass mitigation construction remains underway with the contractor placing dredge material inside a turbidity curtain enclosed-site north of the Julia Tuttle Causeway. The site is 50% complete to a depth of -6ft MLLW. This 16 acre site will soon be planted with new seagrass beds. Over 1,000 scleractinian corals (size >10 cm) were relocated from the channel area and reattached to the artificial reef and natural reef sites.  38 threatened staghorn (acropora) coral colonies located within 50 feet of the channel edge were also relocated outside of the potential impact area. Fragments from these colonies were collected and transported to a nursery at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science to preserve genetic material that aids in the recovery of the species. The Corps of Engineers works daily with its contractor and multiple federal, state and local agencies to help ensure the health of the Miami Harbor and surrounding environment is preserved throughout construction. 

For questions about this project, please call 904-232-1458 or 2233.  For media queries, please call 904-232-1630.