Port of Virginia Moves Forward with Harbor Deepening

The new Virginia International Gateway terminal

Published Sep 26, 2019 1:54 PM by The Maritime Executive

The board of the Port of Virginia has approved a contract worth $78 million for Weeks Marine to start a long-anticipated harbor deepening project for the channel to Hampton Roads, Virginia. The first phase includes dredging out a portion of Thimble Shoal Channel to a depth of 56 feet from the current 50 feet. 

The new target depths for the Inner Harbor and Thimble Shoal Channel are deeper than the navigation channels at any other port on the Eastern seaboard. The Port of Virginia already has the largest STS cranes in the Western Hemisphere, and with its widening and deepening project, it aims to attract ocean carriers by offering unfettered access for the next generation of container ships. The target depth is more than required for the largest fully laden ULCVs to transit, even the record-breaking Megamax-24 class. 

Dredging work will start as early as January, according to the port. The bidding process for other components of the deepening project is currently ongoing. 

The start of construction represents the culmination of a program that was years in the making. With support from Virginia's elected representatives, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Port Authority secured federal funding for the project in 2018. An extensive process of detailed planning began shortly after, including ship simulation, sediment testing for environmental clearances, hydrographic surveys, dredge dumping ground planning and archaeological surveys for sunken vessels, according to the USACE Norfolk District. 

It also follows the completion of the newly-revamped Virginia International Gateway (VIG) terminal, a 1.2 million TEU facility with three ULCV berths and 12 super-post-Panamax STS cranes. Four of these have a maximum lift of 170 feet above the dock and a reach of up to 26 rows, exceeding reach requirements for all current container vessels.