Port cost-sharing agreement signed

Published 9:28 pm Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Virginia Port Authority has signed an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to share the costs of evaluating the benefits of two dredging projects.

The projects would deepen Norfolk Harbor to more than 50 feet and the southern branch of the Elizabeth River to 45 feet, according to a news release.

“The shipping industry is rapidly changing, and a significant area of change is vessel size: the ships keep getting larger, and ports need land-side infrastructure and deep water to accommodate them,” stated John Reinhart, the authority’s chief executive officer and executive director.

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“Presently, the largest vessels in the Atlantic trade call (on) The Port of Virginia, and, fully-laden with cargo, they require every inch of our present channel-depth to safely operate. As the ships get bigger, they will be limited to where they can call on the East Coast; our goal is to provide deep, wide channels and safe passage to the vessels calling Virginia. This is part of the port’s larger plan to ensure a sustainable business model.”

He noted that Monday’s signing ceremony for the agreement is significant, because it capitalizes on work that began in 1986, when the port was given federal authorization to deepen its harbor.

The Corps’ Norfolk district engineer, Col. Paul Olsen added, “Virginia must be prepared for the post-Panamax era, and the one thing I have learned is that is 50 feet is not enough.”

“If The Port of Virginia is not deep enough for the next generation of ships . . . they’ll not want to go to Virginia anymore, they will want to go to another port, and possibly another port in another nation. That is why this work is so important,” he added.