Work began in October on the $63 million project, which was expected to take 18 months to complete.
Port Tampa Bay announced Monday the $63 million dredging project to expand the Big Bend Channel was completed a year ahead of schedule.
The project deepened the entrance channel, east/west channel, inner channel turning basin and local service facilities from 34 feet to 43 feet. It also widened the entrance channel from 200 feet to 250 feet for 1.9 miles, deepened the existing turning basin to 43 feet and expanded the turning basin to 1,200 feet, the port said.
“This is one of the largest projects we have worked on at Port Tampa Bay,” said President and CEO Paul Anderson in a statement. “This is a legacy that truly reshapes our economic landscape and will impact generations to come.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded the contract to Great Lakes Dredge & Dock last year for the project, which began in October and was initially slated to take 18 months. The Oak Brook, Ill.-based company used two of its large class cutter suction dredges — the 263-foot Carolina, which has a dig depth range of 14 feet to 84 feet, and the 220-foot Alaska, which has a dig depth range of 11 feet to 87 feet — for the project, which the port said was completed last week.
“The project was a little unique in that it allowed for us to use two dredges at the same time. Combined with the quick start allowed us to finish early,” said Bill Hanson, vice president of Great Lakes Dredge & Dock, Tuesday in an email. “Keep in mind, major deepening or expansion projects like this take years, sometimes decades to get planned and approved to get to the construction phase. We get to do the fun part — the actual work — and are pleased when things click like they did in Tampa.”
Congress authorized the project in 1999 and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agreed to a plan to start work in 2017, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Funding came from the port, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Florida Department of Transportation and tenants Mosaic and Tampa Electric, which Stephen Fry, the port’s senior vice president of finance, described as a P5 partnership during the American Association of Port Authorities’ 12 annual Planning for Shifting Trade Conference earlier this year.
The wider and deeper channel, which became federalized, will allow for bigger ships to call at the port’s 270-acre Port Redwing terminals. The Big Bend Channel connects to the Tampa harbor’s main channel and serves separate private terminals for Mosaic and Tampa Electric, according to the port.
COSCO began making direct calls from Asia to the port in late January, and CMA CGM announced in February it will begin servicing the port in May as part of its Pacific Express 3 service.
“The project also featured bird habitat creation in the dredged material placement area that the Corps and port are particularly proud of,” Hanson said.
The project’s completion coincided with the beginning of the annual migratory bird nesting season. Dredged material was deposited on one of two port-owned 500-acre spoil islands in Hillsborough Bay, which created 100 acres of new nesting and roosting areas, the port said.