Expansion of the Panama Canal has resulted in more activity and more talk about the benefits it will provide for other ports than about the Panama Canal itself. The improvements are expected to double the capacity of the Panama Canal by 2014. That has set off a flurry of activity at port facilities throughout the United States.
Just about every port in the country is dredging to ensure they will be able to accommodate the much larger freighters that will carry goods from Asia directly to the East Coast. Those that aren’t already dredging are planning such a project or looking for funding for a project. Wider and deeper channels will be necessary to facilitate these larger ships. While the need for port expansions and dredging exists, in some cases the funding for these projects does not, opening the door for possible public-private partnerships. The economic impact will be felt for hundreds of miles around a port facility and a variety of services will be required.
In Providence, Rhode Island, a $7.5 million dredging project was approved by the legislature that will result in the Port of Davisville being widened to accommodate the large quantity of automobile shipments that come through each year.
A $35 million dredging project is also being considered for Georgetown Port in South Carolina. State, local and federal funding has been sought for this project, but because funding does not appear to be available, this may become an opportunity for a public-private partnership in the near future.
Portland, Oregon, officials recently announced their intention to submit a pre-feasibility study to the federal government for cleaning up the Portland Harbor.
Honolulu is accepting bids for a $5 million maintenance dredging project on Waimalu Stream and Ithaca, New York, is working on an environmental impact study to determine how to best begin dredging the Cayuga Inlet.
There are many smaller port projects, but funding for them is always more difficult. Many of the nation’s smaller ports can no longer support Army Corps of Engineer ships and some have difficulty allowing passage for vessels that transport commodities essential to their local economy.
The Port of Rochester in New York is a small port affected by lack of federal funding. This waterway is considered “low use” and as a result, the port does not qualify for dredging grants. A private company that regularly uses the channel has agreed to fund and oversee the dredging project at an anticipated cost of $1 million. This P3 will increase shipping capabilities and decrease operating costs.
A similar budgetary deficit has also forced the state of Minnesota to delay its Fountain Lake dredging project. This $15 million project may become an ideal opportunity for a public-private partnership effort in the near future.