By Seth Daniel
As global commerce shifts increasing to larger and larger ship, places like Boston Harbor and the Chelsea Creek need to get deeper.
That’s exactly what is happening right now after state, federal and local officials announced the $350 million project on Friday, Sept. 15, that will dredge the Harbor for the first time in nearly 20 years, and also deepen parts of the Harbor. The project will stretch from the outer Harbor to the Mystic River and up the Chelsea Creek.
At a ceremony in the AutoPort, just on the other side of the Mystic/Tobin Bridge in Charlestown, the announcement was made to kick off the project.
“Investments we make today into the Port of Boston and the Conley Container Terminal are essential for New England to remain an important player in the global economy for years to come,” said Massport CEO Thomas P. Glynn. “We are grateful to our state and federal partners, under the strong leadership of Governor Charlie Baker, Senators Warren and Markey and Congressman Lynch, for continuing to support the Port, help modernize Conley’s facilities and allow the Harbor to handle even larger ships.”
State Sen. Sal DiDomenico said the three year project is critical for the safe passage of larger ships that will be able to make Boston their port of call. This project will continue to make Boston one of the most important ports on the eastern seaboard and protect and increase jobs for our workers as well as increase the economic activity at our docks.
“This project will allow Boston to continue it’s leadership position on the east coast for containers ships visiting our ports,” said DiDomenico. “Every part of my district is impacted by the economic success of our ports and dredging the Boston Harbor will allow us to continue our competitive advantage on the eastern seaboard.”
The $350 million state and federally funded multi-phase project also will support continued growth at South Boston’s Conley Container Terminal, which has achieved three consecutive record breaking years for volume.
“Deepening Boston Harbor and supporting infrastructure investments at Conley Container Terminal are crucial to Massachusetts and New England’s competitiveness in the global marketplace,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We are proud to work with our state and federal partners toward these improvements, supporting billions in economic activity and over 1,600 businesses creating thousands of local jobs.”
Project plans include maintaining the inner harbor, and deepening the outer harbor, main shipping channel and reserved channel to allow for larger container ships already calling Conley Container Terminal following the expansion of the Panama Canal. States up and down the East Coast are investing in their ports to accommodate bigger ships. The dredging in the inner harbor preserves vessels’ capability to deliver home heating oil, automobiles, jet fuel, and salt to terminals along the Chelsea Creek and Mystic Rivers.
The overall project to deepen Boston Harbor will cost approximately $350 million, including $130 million from Massport and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and $220 million in federal funding, including $18.2 million allocated in the USACE’s FY 2017 workplan and $58 million included in the President’s FY’18 budget. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has contracted with Great Lakes Dredge and Dock to perform the work.
The first phase of the project consists of maintenance dredging, including the construction of a Confined Aquatic Disposal (CAD) Cell just off the shore of the AutoPort in Charlestown, which will safely hold tons of sediment from the floor of the harbor. This work is expected to continue through the end of the year.
The second phase of the project, scheduled to begin in mid-2018, will deepen the Outer Harbor Channel, from 40 to 51 feet; the Main Shipping Channel, from 40 to 47 feet; and the Reserve Channel, where Conley Container Terminal is located, from 40 to 47 feet. Currently, Conley is able to handle 8,500 TEU ships – this project will allow it to handle up to 12,000 TEU vessels.