Port of Long Beach completing dredging project

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Dredging of the Main Channel and a key turning basin for ships in the Port of Long Beach has been completed, which the port says marks a milestone in its ongoing $40 million project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to improve navigation and the environment in the harbor.

The project has provided a minimum depth of 76 feet from two miles outside the harbor entrance, improving access for oil tankers and creating one of the deepest harbors among U.S. seaports. The port says the deeper, wider channel and basin also provide additional, safer access for the world’s largest container ships to call in Long Beach.

“This is a critical project for the Port of Long Beach,” says Doug Thiessen, Port of Long Beach managing director of engineering. “It greatly enhances the port’s capabilities and navigational safety.”

The 17-month dredging project, expected to be completed before the end of 2011, has generated about 180 jobs. About $35 million of the project’s cost was provided by the port, with $2.6 million from the Army Corps of Engineers and $2.4 million in federal economic stimulus funds; the Army Corps also has been providing project construction management.

With completion of the dredging, fully laden tankers now can come directly to berth without first stopping offshore to unload part of their cargo, so vessel security and environmental safety have been enhanced. Before, the turning basin was not deep enough to allow these tankers to enter the port fully loaded.

“Very few ports in the world have a main channel and turning basin of 76 feet,” says Captain Thomas A. Jacobsen, president of Jacobsen Pilot Service Inc., which provides port-piloting service in Long Beach. “This allows ships to safely transit at a maximum draft of 69 feet. We are very happy to have this completed.”