The Importance of Dredging

Dredging Difficulties

For those familiar with the dredging industry, there is an obvious disconnect between U.S. dredging need and funding. Dredging in the United States in the past decade has been only half as active as it was in the 1960’s, however costs have increased ten times in the same period. The maritime industry is experiencing a growth of ships both in numbers and size. Due to this evolution, U.S. ports will continue to require regular maintenance dredging to ensure that some of the world’s largest ships are able to come to port.

dredgeGlobally, port and harbor expansions, new ports, enlarged navigation channels and maintenance work accounts for almost 3/5 of dredging activity. The United States remains the only market that is “closed” or inaccessible to foreign competitors. European, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Australia are all open. China is currently the world’s largest dredging market and accounted for 29 percent of world dredging work in 2011. Since then, they have only become more active in the dredging market.

Why Do We Need Dredging?

Due to damage from weather conditions and increasing climate changes, the demand for dredging has significantly increased. Cities including Miami, FL, Guangzhou, China and New York are becoming more exposed to rising sea levels and storm damages. When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast of the United States, she unleashed over $50 billion worth of damage. However, if a functioning defense system was in place before the storm, the damage may have been only around $6.5 billion.


To help the economy and efficiency within the maritime industry, ships have been growing in size to handle more cargo in one load. Because of this, there have been major investments in deepening, expanding and building ports and enlarging channels for ships which calls for dredging demand. Crude carriers continue to get bigger and dry goods are increasingly being shipped via containers. As these vessels grow in size, customers benefit from lower costs, raising demand for goods and prompting investment in even bigger boats. In 1980, the largest vessels were able to ship 4100 TEU’s or twenty foot containers. By 2012 that number had risen to 15000 TEU’s and today with the addition of Maersk’s “Triple E” the largest ships in the world have a capacity of 18,000 TEU’s.

Current Dredging in the United States

The largest dredging projects in the U.S. are maintenance work, port deepening and activity following Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The two largest and most publicized projects are the deepening of Miami Harbor which is expected to finish mid-2015 and the deepening of the Arthur Kill in New York / New Jersey Harbor which is expected to be completed by the end of 2014 and is a project that has been alive since 1986.

Additionally the Hurricane Sandy Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill was signed into law in February of 2013. The bill allows $600 million for maintenance dredging projects in 2013 and 2014 and over $1 billion for beach replenishment. Another major project includes the deepening of the Delaware River shipping channel from 40 feet to 45 feet and is projected to be completed in 2017 as long as funding is available.



“Digging In” Maritime Reporter. October 2014; 14-16. Print.

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