Proceedings Of The Marine

SUM 2016

Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.

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37 Summer 2016 Proceedings Maintenance and Expansion Challenges A l t h o u g h t h e H o u s t o n S h i p Channel spans a seemingly short distance — 52 miles from Galveston Bay to just outside of downtown Houston — it requires multiagency coordination to keep vessels moving. The Port of Houston Authority, a non- federal sponsor of the Houston Ship Channel, works with the Galveston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engi- neers and local industry to maintain a healthy system. Due to its origin as a shallow, muddy bayou cutting through geologic clay, the Houston Ship Channel requires constant maintenance dredging to remain a deep, wide channel. For example, some of the terminals along the channel report silting in at a rate of one foot per three-month period. 1 Maintenance Funding The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers esti- mates that the federal portion of the Houston Ship Channel needs about $50 million in maintenance per year, but the federal appropriations are usually only half of that. Meanwhile, port users in Houston contributed $93 million to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund in 2013, of which only $21 million was appropriated for use. 2 Insufficient funding for necessary projects can lead to draft restrictions on the channel or docks, which has a trickle-down effect on the rest of the supply chain. Shippers may be forced to light load or lighter their vessels to enter their terminal destinations, which increases the cost to shippers and inflates the number of vessel transits required to move the same amount of cargo. Fortunately, the Water Resources Reform and Redevelopment Act of 2014 set annually increasing targets for appropriations from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to alleviate some of the maintenance shortfall. DAMPs Other challenges include dredge material placement areas, or DAMPs, along the Houston Ship Channel, which are under strain to accept projected material placement loads, partially due to the large increase in investment throughout the region. Maintaining DAMP sites requires periodic dewatering, decanting, and levee-raising, during which the site is not available to receive additional material. Additionally, it 's a time- consuming process to obtain approval for non-federal parties to use federal placement areas. Looking Ahead A deeper and wider Panama Canal offers the opportunity to capture the benefit of larger ships newly able to transit it. In the near term, the increased ship size will initially reduce the number of vessel arrivals at Gulf Coast ports. However, as growth in the Far East continues to expand, trans- Pacific trade will grow as well. Over time, this will result in an increasing number of vessel arrivals at key Gulf Coast ports. To enable the growth of regional industry along the channel, in 2016 the Port of Houston Authority and the Galveston District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers embarked on a four-year study of the Houston Ship Channel's needs to determine the economic and engineering feasibility of deep- ening and/or widening sections of the channel and expanding placement areas. Endnotes: 1. S e e w w w . c h r o n . c o m / b u s i n e s s / a r t i c l e / S h i p - C h a n n e l - d e p t h - a f f e c t s - a u t h o r i t y - s - revenue-1682269.php. 2. S e e w w w . n b c d f w . c o m / n e w s / l o c a l / H ous ton - B ayous- Evolution - Into - Bus y- Por t- Ongoing-252440941.html. A tanker passing a dredge working in the Houston ship channel. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer James Dillard.

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