The Port of Virginia says that it has received its final federal approval to begin work on its ship-channel deepening-and-widening project. The port has given its contractor notice to proceed, and the staging of heavy equipment needed for the project got underway on Thursday - two and a half years ahead of schedule.
Earlier this month, the port signed a $78 million contract with New Jersey-based Weeks Marine for the project's first phase, the deepening of the western side of Thimble Shoal Channel. This week, the Environmental Protection Agency approved use of an offshore site for the dredge spoils, the final required permit, allowing the contractor to begin work.
The full project includes dredging the port's shipping channels to 55 feet and widening them where needed. When dredging is complete in 2024, the port will be the deepest on the U.S. East Coast, and the commercial channels serving Norfolk Harbor will be able to accommodate two ULCVs at the same time. In addition to its commercial tenants, Norfolk is the home of the world's largest naval base, and the widening work will also improve the U.S. Navy's ability to move warships in and out of the harbor efficiently. The total projected cost, including the preliminary engineering and design work, is $350 million.
“Today, the work to make The Port of Virginia the deepest port on the U.S. East Coast gets underway,” said John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “Safe, two-way movement of ultra-large container vessels, unrestricted by tide, is a significant competitive advantage for our port. This project and all other improvements we are making at the terminals tells the ocean carriers ‘we are ready for your big ships.’"