The Port of Brownsville, the closest Texas seaport to Mexico, this week is expected to take action on bids to dredge its shipping channel and key dock areas in a move to help meet the service demands of ocean lines using larger vessels.
Commissioners for the Brownsville Navigation District earlier this month authorized C. James Kruse, port chief, to accept bids for the 1994 maintenance and improvement dredging project."We're going to receive bids on July 15. Those bids will be for the current docks that need dredging," Mr. Kruse said in a telephone interview.
Other dredging work involved in the bidding will be spot dredging for a new oil dock and deep-hole dredging for a dry dock that the port is inheriting
from the Navy.
"We've already done all the surveys and sounding," the port chief said. ''We expect that the board will award a contract on July 20th."
The dredging project is important for Brownsville since it hopes to be more competitive with other Gulf of Mexico ports such as Corpus Christi and Houston for Mexico-bound cargo. Some 85 percent of the cargo moving into Brownsville is destined for Mexico and is either loaded onto trucks, rails or barge for the final southbound move.
"Our biggest concern is just to keep up with the competitive situation with today's shipping environment. There's just larger vessels with larger quantities," said Mr. Kruse. "We're just trying to keep ourselves in position to compete in the world market."
The principal traffic moving through Brownsville is steel - the primary commodity, accounting for 42 percent of total traffic for the first five months of 1994 - as well as petroleum derivatives, vegetable oils, minerals and grain.
The 1994 dredging plan ties in with the last part of a three-phase project that is expected to be completed by April 1995. Plans call for dredging the ship channel from 36 feet to 42 feet, expanding bottom width by 50 feet and widening the turning basin by 200 feet.
Because the three-year dredging project has been done under budget, the port is able to use some of its excess federal money for the spot and dock- area dredging, said Mr. Kruse.
"It's far enough under budget that we're using some of the surplus do these other maintenance projects that really need to be done," he explained. ''But they're all dredging projects and that's what the money was earmarked for."
Initially, the three-year dredging plan was supposed to involve a federal share of $19 million and a local share of $16 million. Lower-than-expected costs dropped the total price of the project to a federal contribution of $17 million and a local share of $11 million.