A description and history for the Miami Harbor Deepening projects, along with project related documents, can be found at: https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Navigation/Navigation-Projects/Miami-Habor-Deepening.
It’s important to note that the study phase for the previous project, Phase 3 Deepening, began in 2000. The Corps made the recommendation for a 50 foot channel depth in April 2005. At that time, the most recent data available was through 2003 and the world's largest container ships were around 5,200 to 7,600 TEUs which consisted of 104 vessels total. The second largest class included vessels in the 3,900 to 5,200 TEU range and totaled 203. The largest vessels consistently calling on the East Coast at that time were around 4,500 TEUs. Over the last few years the number and size of the World Fleet has grown substantially. The completion of the Panama Canal expansion in 2015 changed world shipping patterns and the vessel types that transit them. In 2015 there were around 388 vessels ranging from 7,600 to 12,000 TEUs and 124 vessels greater than 12,000. By 2030, those numbers are forecasted to be around 742 vessels between 7,600 to 12,000 TEUs and 458 vessels greater than 12,000 TEUs.
Among triggers for growth in international trade is the expanded Panama Canal, since deep-draft ports on Florida’s eastern seaboard are serving an increasing number of mega-ships. (Source: Pathway to Prosperity: The 2019-2023 Five-Year Florida Seaport Mission Plan) Since the last expansion at Miami Harbor, the size of vessels in the world fleet has increased, and to accommodate wider and deeper draft vessels, Miami Harbor will require additional modifications to remain competitive and to accommodate these vessels.
The Biscayne Bay Pilots Association (BBPA) who bring the ships into Port are facing multiple difficulties in maneuvering when entering the outer entrance channel from the ocean, translating into delays in vessel transportation while pilots wait on optimal conditions in specific areas of the channel in order to transit safely. Additional needs consist of allowing a larger turning radius for larger Post-Panamax vessels in Lummus Island Turning Basin, reducing cruise ship turning/transit time in the Fisher Island Turning Basin, and allowing larger Post-Panamax vessels and cruise ships in Fisherman’s Channel to transit past moored containerships, specifically when the gantry cranes are loading them.
Given the aforementioned issues, the Port of Miami wanted to determine the best course of action and therefore requested a new feasibility study in March 2018, followed by the Corps of Engineers completing an Initial Appraisal in April 2018, thus resulting in a recommendation for a new feasibility study. See Section 216 of the Flood Control Act of 1970. The Miami Harbor feasibility study commenced with the signing of the Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement (FCSA) on 09/04/2018 and will be complete with the signing of the Chief of Engineer's Report by the end of 2021.