Port of Miami to dredge channel to accommodate postpanamax vessels

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DESPITE a weak economy, the Port of Miami, already a powerful economic engine in South Florida, will spend US$2 billion to fund projects, including channel dredging, reports the UK's Port Strategy.

The projects are expected to be completed in late 2014. Port director Bill Johnson outlined the centrepiece of a three-pronged investment initiative, with funding coupled with financing from local, state and federal sources, is a tunnel that will link the port (on Dodge Island, in the middle of Biscayne Bay) with Route I-395, a branch of the US Interstate highway system. The result will be a smooth flow of truck traffic, no longer forced to use Biscayne Boulevard. Tunnel boring began in late 2011.

A dredging programme, estimated to cost $150 million, will deepen the channel into the port from the Atlantic, from its present 42 feet (13.7 metres) to 50 feet. The channel will also be widened and this will enable calls by postpanamax vessels of sizes up to 8,500 TEU.

The third part of the plan is a $50 million renewal of a rail link that would link the docks to the Florida East Coast Railway (which has a yard 12 miles west of the port, in Hialeah). This regional railway is a link to the big national "Class 1" railroads. "We intend to penetrate deep into the southeast," Mr Johnson said.

On the cargo front, the port's 2011 container flows registered in excess of 900,000 TEU ranking 11th in the US ports' league and first in Florida. The port's nine gantry cranes (two of which are able to work post-panamax ships) are being converted to electric power, from diesel. Four additional cranes, also able to work the new generation of vessels, have been ordered from Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries, following approval in mid-January by the Miami-Dade County Commission.

The trade mix, which now shows a surplus of exports (mainly to Latin America), is expected to shift in the coming decades, with imports playing a more important role. The port's Master Plan 2035 looks to an annual throughput of 1.5 million TEU in 2020, assuming that Miami's streamlined rail and road linkages enable it to push into the southeastern United States.

By 2035, the midpoint forecasts exceed 2.5 million TEU, assuming additional penetration beyond the present hinterland, mainly in Florida. The game changer would be an increase in the import business as additional Asian goods are delivered to the US east coast by all water route via the Panama Canal.

Consultant Martin Associates, in a report presented to Miami's planners, said: "Two million TEU is the identified potential of Asian cargo moving into Florida from other ports."

Source Shipping Gazette - Daily Shipping News

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