Annual Review & Outlook 2013: Port of Houston Authority

Leonard WaterworthThose ports across the nation not blessed with naturally deep harbors are in a race to either benefit from an expanded Panama Canal or sit on the sidelines while their competitors reap the rewards. Securing public support and funding has never been more challenging. But the potential returns have never been greater.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that by 2030, post-Panamax ships will become the norm. These ships will hold 62 percent of the world’s container fleet capacity. Ports unable to accommodate these vessels will steadily watch their container trade erode.

What a time to be scrambling for funding for dredging projects. Funds for maintenance dredging always fall short, not even taking into account major deepening projects. Despite the economic importance of our nation’s ports, tightening federal budgets mean that port directors must become more creative and resourceful in funding infrastructure projects.

None of this should come as a surprise. Even before the announced expansion of the Panama Canal, these super-sized vessels were already calling at U.S. destinations from European ports. Dredging and maintenance to meet the needs of these customers was already a priority.

The American Association of Port Authorities estimates the country’s dredging needs at $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion each year. Meeting those dredging needs remains the overwhelming challenge of 2013 and beyond.

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