Bids going out from U.S. ports to modernize trillion-dollar business
The 926 ports throughout the United States serve as the gateway through which 99 percent of overseas trade passes, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Ports are responsible for $4.6 trillion in economic activity, which is roughly 26 percent of the U.S. economy. Maintaining a port’s facilities will greatly extend its lifespan, and its estimated that ports will spend $154.8 billion from 2016 to 2020 on expansion, modernization and repair.
Larger ships need deeper navigation channels, typically 45 feet deep or more, to be able to access a port. As ships continue to grow, the majority of existing port infrastructure will not be able to accommodate these larger vessels. Ports need to add cranes to ensure they can reach the cargo on wider ships, increase the size of the container yard to hold cargo and supply sufficient power to pull ships into port.
Recommendations for port improvements were provided in the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card and they include the following: Increase overall investment into the freight program to ensure ports can effectively distribute and receive goods as ships continue to grow in size; appropriate funds to the congressionally authorized projects to ensure that projects crucial to freight movement are completed in a timely manner; ensure that ports have a seat at the table as states create and execute freight plans; adopt new technologies to reduce wait times at docks, boost efficiency, and increase security; and improve freight and landside connections to strengthen the entire freight system and reduce congestion that is costly to the economy when moving goods.
A deepening project will be taking Charleston Harbor to 52 feet from its current 45-foot level. Once complete, South Carolina’s Port of Charleston will be the deepest navigation channel on the East Coast. The port will be able to accommodate large cargo ships carrying 13,000 or more containers, which have been visiting East Coast ports with greater frequency since the Panama Canal was expanded last year. The Army Corps of Engineers will announce a winning bid for the first phase of entrance channel dredging in October, with bids for other phases to follow.
The entire project from Charleston Harbor’s entrance to the States Ports Authority’s (SPA) North Charleston Terminal should take between 40 to 76 months, depending on funding, dredge availability, weather and other factors. The SPA and state and federal government will spend about $2 billion over the next few years on improvements. In addition to harbor deepening, the projects include: a new container terminal at the former Navy base in North Charleston, inland ports in Greer and Dillon, an access road connecting the new terminal with Interstate 26 and a rail yard where shipping containers will be transferred between trucks and rail cars.
In Oregon, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a project proposal by the Port of Astoria to dredge the West Mooring Basin. The port has estimated the west basin needs 600,000 cubic yards of sediment removed, at a cost of between $600,000 and $720,000. The port plans to phase the dredging of the marina over the next two to three years, dredging half of the marina this year. The $323,000 the port plans to spend in the coming year includes $50,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help recover from storms in December 2015.
Nearly three weeks after the state started accepting applications for its new $85 million Job Growth Grant Fund, Florida has received 19 applications requesting more than $40 million from the grant program. Eight of the applications, nearly half of them, were submitted by just two local governments seeking financial help with infrastructure improvements. Combined, those eight applications represent more than half of the grant money requested so far. The Canaveral Port Authority is requesting $8.2 million to help cover the cost of a new access road to the cruise and cargo terminals at Port Canaveral. In its grant application, the authority says the road access project is estimated to have a total overall economic impact of $101 million and will create 1,146 jobs.
The Port of San Francisco sent out a request for proposals for a new shipyard lease at the 150-year-old historic drydocks that assembled steel ships for World War II and built the underwater BART Transbay Tube. The effort has been months in the making and the California port is ready to dredge its own drydock. The port is seeking a partner to lease a historically successful ship repair facility and its related equipment and port officials are ready to pay for repairs needed to attract a new operator.
The port sent out an email seeking new shipyard operators featuring a suite of improvements to the drydock, including a $5 million upgrade to lift heavier ships, demolition and removal of two deficient buildings that created 20,000 additional feet of usable land area to be completed in 2018. Needed repairs include drydock dredging, whichis the cleaning of sediment and other debris at the submerged portions of the shipyard. Port officials are hoping to get an operator by October.
After it was last dredged in 2010, the roughly 1,500-foot-wide basin had a maximum depth of 10 to 12 feet, but now parts of the basin are as shallow as 4 feet at low tide. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing bid documents for dredging in the Back Creek Basin and near the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal in Maryland. The Corps’ Philadelphia District office’s contracting office is finishing work on the documents to be put to bid with hopes to have them out by the end of August with tentative awarding of a contract before the end of September.
In about 10 years, the docks at the Port of Anchorage in Alaska will start closing unless major repairs are made. Without a large portion of state or federal funding, the port, which opened in 1961, is likely to resort to a tariff that leads to higher prices on the vast majority of consumer products that come into the state. In 2010, tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money was spend on a failed expansion project that was later abandoned by the city. Revenue bonds, private investment and money from settlements in a lawsuit over the previous botched project appear to be among the leading options moving forward.
The city netted about $19 million from private contractors after the botched expansion project. The city has enough money to finish the first phase of the project, which includes construction of a new petroleum and cement terminal. Officials are working on the design and permitting related to future phases, which include the critical replacement of the docks.