Key U.S. Harbor and channel improvements: Planning for future global needs




Grier DV
Pointon MR

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American Society of Civil Engineers


Like other nations, the volume of foreign trade and its share of the economy are growing rapidly in the United States. Most of this foreign trade is handled by ships calling at U.S. coastal and Great Lakes ports. And like the volume of trade, the size of these vessels is also increasing rapidly. For a port to stay competitive as a player in the world sea trade, its channels and facilities must be able to accommodate these increasingly larger vessels in the world fleet. Since 1986, Congress has passed seven Water Resources Development Acts (WRDAs) that have authorized over 50 major harbor improvement projects. Some of these projects have been completed, some are underway, some are in design, and some are on hold while a variety of issues are negotiated. More than a few have been shelved indefinitely. Dredging and dredged material disposal sites are serious concerns that caused lengthy delays in such major projects as New York/New Jersey and Oakland. This paper examines major U.S. harbor improvements to serve the increasingly larger ships in use or on order in the world fleet. Attention is focused on select harbor projects completed or underway, including channel depths, type of traffic served (container, bulk), cost, changes in scope and why, environmental mitigation measures, and remaining work. Major future projects that have recently been authorized or are underway, such as Houston/Galveston Bay, are highlighted




Coastal engineering, Costs, Dredging, Environmental protection, Fleet operations, Freight transportation, Industrial economics, International trade, Planning, Ports and harbors, Ships, Structural design, Water, Water resources, Waterway transportation