The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District is starting a feasibility study and environmental impact statement concerning possible navigation improvements to San Juan Harbor, Puerto Rico. The Corps will work in partnership with the Puerto Rico Port Authority, which owns, operates, and manages facilities for cargo and cruise vessels at the harbor.
San Juan Harbor is located on the north 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 Commonwealth’s non-petroleum waterborne commerce.
To meet increasing demands of the growing global economy, the shipping and cruise industry continues to progress to larger, more efficient vessels. The completion of the Panama Canal expansion in 2016 will allow mega cruise ships to transit the canal. The new Panama Canal will soon be able to handle vessels with a maximum length of 1,200 feet, width of 160 feet, and draft of 50 feet.
The Corps of Engineers is tasked to seek navigation improvements such as deepening and/or widening channels to accommodate existing and future vessel movement, and resolve navigation restriction problems. Corps’ engineers and scientists are using the best technologies available to make ports more cost-efficient.
San Juan Harbor currently suffers from some known shipping inefficiencies due to limited channel width and restrictions that don’t allow two-way traffic. Certain sizes of container and cargo vessels can’t exit the port through the Graving Dock area due to limited depth and width, and have to turn and transit near the Army Terminal, which creates delays with incoming ships using the same channels. Cruise ship docking has also reached its full capacity.
The study will assess the feasibility of implementing harbor improvements such as deepening and/or widening the channels. Such improvements are intended to accommodate existing and future vessel movement, resolve navigation restriction problems, and present opportunities for economic development.
The Corps of Engineers and the Puerto Rico Ports Authority signed an agreement Sept. 16, 2015 to officially start the study. The Corps is initiating the feasibility phase by drafting the project management plan and executing a Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement with the San Juan Port Authority. The Corps also presented study information at a public meeting Nov. 5, 2015 in San Juan.