South Florida’s main entry point for gasoline and jet fuel and one of the busiest cruise ports in the world is widening its channels.
The alteration to the port’s existing infrastructure is a response to the evolving shipping industry.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released an environmental and economic report that allows for the start of preliminary designing and engineering, a process that will take over a year.
“It would be hard to think of a more complex, challenging, difficult project to bring to fruition than this one has been,” said Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz during a press conference at the port’s terminal 18.
Should the plan gain congressional approval in 2016, dredging would commence in 2017 and is slated to last three to five years.
Steve Cernak is the port’s chief executive and port director. He says larger cargo ships can’t always dock if they are fully loaded due to Port Everglade’s current channel depth of 42 feet, with an extra two feet of depth for safety.
“Port Everglades already has these larger ships calling here, albeit, they are coming in light-loaded because we don’t have the water depth,” says Cernak.
The larger cargo ships that are too heavy to enter the harbor are also too large to safely enter and dock when cruise ships are being boarded.
“We have situations today where on the Intracoastal Waterway if you have a large container ship... and you have a large cruise ship at berth, we have to hold the vessel out at anchorage until the cruise ship leaves so it can get to the dock to unload its cargo,” Cernak says, adding that those delays in unloading cargo can lead to higher costs for consumers, sometimes at $100,000 over.