The Port of Virginia is set to become the deepest port on the East Coast within the next five years, with its big dredging contract just approved this week. When the dredging is done, the port’s shipping channels will be 55 feet deep.
A New Jersey-based dredging firm will begin work in January on the project’s initial phase, deepening the western side of the Thimble Shoal Channel, at a cost of $78 million.
The entire project, which will cost $350 million including design and engineering, is expected to be complete by 2024. The work includes dredging the shipping channels to 55 feet – with deeper ocean approaches – and widening the channel to more than 1,400 feet in specific areas.
When it’s finished, the commercial shipping channels that serve the Norfolk Harbor will be able to accommodate two ultra-large container vessels at the same time. That will set the Port of Virginia apart from the rest.
“When the work is complete, Virginia will be the only East Coast port with this capability,” says Virginia Port Authority CEO and executive director John Reinhart. “The vessel sizes continue to expand, so safe, two-way ULCV traffic is important to the sustainability and efficiency of this port and to the ocean carriers using the channel.”
Dredging efforts got underway in 2015 when the port and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers entered into a cost share agreement for an evaluation of the benefits of dredging the Norfolk Harbor deeper than 50 feet.
-Meg Walburn Viviano