The Port of Jacksonville is poised to get the congressional go-ahead to deepen its harbor in order to handle larger container ships, after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed a needed report.
The Jacksonville Port Authority today said the corps has completed a chief’s report. With the completed report, the deepening project can now be included in federal water resources development legislation being finalized in Congress. The project to deepen the port’s channel from 40 feet to 47 feet is projected to cost $684 million. Roughly $63 million of berth upgrades, which are part of the total project, are already underway.
Jacksonville needs the deeper draft so it can handle the larger container ships that will able to pass through the expanded Panama Canal, which is set to open in 2016 after several delays. The $5.25 billion expansion will triple the capacity of the canal, allowing carriers to gain economies of scale by using larger vessels.
The Senate and the House are expected to hash out the differences between their respective water resources bills by the end of the month, paving the way for President Obama to sign the final version into law later this spring. The House approved its version, the Water Resources Reform Development Act, in October 2013, and the Senate passed its version, the Water Resources Development Act, last May. Some industry insiders have speculated that passage has been delayed because Congress was waiting for some projects to get needed chief’s reports from the corps.
Aside from getting authorization to deepen its channel, Jacksonville will also likely get congressional approval to fix a major navigational problem that prevents fully loaded container vessels from calling on the port nearly two-thirds of the day. Jaxport has already received a chief’s report for the project, known as Mile Point.