Port Everglades, the busiest containerport in Florida, said today it has been authorized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to receive $335 million in funding to deepen its navigational channels to as much as 50 feet, from 42 feet. The project also includes deepening and widening the port's entrance channel, and parts of Florida Intracoastal Waterway, so cargo ships can safely pass by docked cruise ships that dominate the Fort Lauderdale-based complex.
Under the project, the navigational channel will be deepened to 48 feet, with a required over-depth of 1 foot, and an additional foot in allowable over-depth, the port said. Funding will be split among federal appropriations, revenues generated through Port Everglades' customer fees, and state grants, the port said.
The project, which is currently in the pre-construction engineering and design phase, can now proceed through the permitting and federal funding processes, the port said. Work is scheduled to be completed three to five years after construction begins, with the time frame dependent on the pace of funding and permitting.
The funding authorization came out of the "Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation" (WIIN) Act, which President Obama signed into law on Dec. 16.
Ports along the East Coast have been pushing for deeper navigational channels to accommodate the mega-ships expected to sail more frequently through the expanded Panama Canal between Asia and the U.S. During the past 15 months, the Port of New York and New Jersey, as well as the Port of Miami, completed dredging projects to deepen their channels to 50 feet. Baltimore and Norfolk, Va. are the other East Coast ports with 50-foot channel depths.
In its 2016 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the port handled nearly 1.04 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers, slightly lower than fiscal 2015 figures. Container traffic accounts for 22.6 percent of the port's activity, while petroleum shipments make up 21.4 percent. The cruise industry accounts for 34 percent, according to port data.