San Juan Harbor is located on the northern coast of Puerto Rico and is the island’s principal port. The majority of the Commonwealth’s waterborne cargo and cruise ships pass through the harbor, handling more than 75 percent of the non-petroleum waterborne commerce.
San Juan Harbor currently suffers from known shipping inefficiencies due to limited channel width and depth. Existing cargo shippers experience increased operation costs due to light loading, vessel size limitations, and congestion delays. Cruise vessel operators experience increased in-port maneuvering costs due to channel and turning basin width and depth constraints. And bulk fuel importers including liquified petroleum gas (LPG) and liquified natural gas (LNG) experience increased operation costs due to vessel size limitations.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District completed a feasibility study on August 23, 2018, that recommended a plan to improve the economic efficiency of commercial navigation and power generation in San Juan Harbor. The recommended plan includes widening and deepening the inner harbor channels that lead to cruise ship and petroleum terminal operators. The recommended plan, also known as the National Economic Development plan, maximizes net benefits while protecting the Nation’s environment. The non-Federal sponsor for the project is the Puerto Rico Ports Authority, which owns, operates, and manages facilities for cargo and cruise vessels at the harbor.
In association with the navigation project, there is also the opportunity to beneficially use dredged material to restore submerged aquatic vegetation habitat in the Condado Lagoon, adjacent to San Juan Harbor. A central portion of the 102-acre Condado Lagoon had previously been degraded by construction activities in the 1950s and there is an opportunity to restore that area using compatible sediment dredged at the entrance channel of San Juan Harbor. The Corps continues to explore the feasibility of incorporating this action alongside the navigation project.
USACE is in the process of completing the Preconstruction, Engineering, and Design Phase of the project, which was initiated on May 24, 2019. The project was authorized for construction in Section 1401 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 and received Federal funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in 2021.
USACE currently anticipates that a construction contract will be advertised in March 2023, with construction expected to begin no earlier than July 2023. The construction contract is estimated to have a duration of approximately 18 months, where dredging operations are expected to account for roughly 8 to 10 of those months, with the remainder used for planning, equipment mobilization, and weather and equipment delays