News and information for the worldwide dredging industry



December marked 100 years since the Panama Canal’s Culebra Cut was dredged. The Panama Canal Administration honored the anniversary as part of a host of events leading up to the centennial of the canal’s opening next year. The last land barrier in the 80-kilometer waterway between the two oceans was removed on October 10, 1913, when the Gamboa Dike was blasted, connecting the Culebra Cut and Gatun Lake. However, landslides in the Culebra Cut prevented the canal from being fully navigable, so two more months of dredging were necessary before the Culebra Cut was considered open. The Canal Authority used the anniversary to highlight the role dredging has played in the Canal Region. “Dredging is key to ensure the safe and efficient navigation through the Panama Canal,” Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano said in a presentation to the Panama Canal Dredging Division in December. That division, which is responsible for nearly all the dredging in the canal, has been located in Gamboa since 1936 so as to have easy access to both the Culebra Cut and Gatun Lake.


In November, the Oceanographic Institute of the Navy of Ecuador (INOCAR) hosted a four-day workshop in Guayaquil on the new S-100 standard for transmitting hydrographic data. The S-100 standard has been developed by the United Nation’s International Maritime Organization to promote improved communication and data transmission between ships and shore through e-navigation. The workshop was attended by international members from the South East Pacific Hydrographic Commission, including visitors from Peru, Colombia and Chile, according to an INOCAR press release.


The Brazilian federal government last month released $10 million for emergency dredging and other measures to cope with major floods along the Botas River in the state of Rio de Janeiro. In addition to dredging rivers to help drain the heavy rainfall, the money was aimed at slope stabilization, clean-up, and funds for displaced families. The funding was just an initial input; local government officials have applied for $150 million to implement longer-term fixes and deeper dredging.


After a long dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua over the dredging of the San Juan River along their border, the International Court of Justice, the UN’s primary judicial organ, issued a judgment in favor of Costa Rica. The conflict began three years ago when Costa Rica accused Nicaragua of illegally dredging new channels in the river, of which they share oversight. Costa Rican officials said the channels were harming the river’s ecosystem and had encroached on their territory. Nicaragua countercharged that Costa Rica had illegally built a highway along the river, which also harmed the river’s ecosystem and navigability and required more dredging. The ICJ issued a unanimous judgment in November that stated that Nicaragua should refrain from further dredging in the San Juan River, and in fact should fill the trenches it made.


Cuba has completed a new container terminal and free-trade zone at the Port of Mariel. The new port has been dredged to 17 meters (about 56 feet) and is the only port in the country that can receive post-Panamax ships. The $900 million project was constructed by Brazilian firm Odebrecht, and was financed partly by companies from Brazil and Singapore. Cuba’s plan is to transfer virtually all the cargo shipping from Havana to Mariel, freeing Havana Bay to become a tourism and recreation playground, reports the Financial Times. Mariel will eventually have 700 meters of docks and space to store one million containers, three times as many as Havana’s port can accommodate.


Ship pilots in Buenaventura have complained to Colombia’s Superintendent of Ports that just six months after dredging was completed there, some parts of the entrance channel have lost depth; however, authorities at the port say the seabed is in a process of “normal readjustment” after the dredging and that it is not affecting safe navigation. Colombian newspaper El País reported that pilots had complained that the channel, which was recently dredged to 13.5 meters, had lost about 1.8 meters. However, a report by the Superintendent of Ports said the pilots’ echo sounders are not distinguishing between soft sediments and hard material, and in fact, the apparent “loss” is simply a “rearrangement of the ‘carpet’ of soft sediments” that is part of the natural slope-stabilization process after dredging. The port will be conducting a bathymetric study to ensure the safety of passage through the channel, El País reported. Meanwhile, Jan de Nul began planned dredging of several wharves and a turning basin in Buenaventura Port. The project began at the end of December and will take about three months.


The Peruvian government plans to dredge the port of Salaverry in May this year, reports newspaper La República. They expect to invest about $25 million into the project and will tender a bid for the dredging in March. The Salaverry Port is badly in need of dredging; one study estimated that 1.6 million cubic meters must be dredged from the turning basin, wharves and entrance channel. The report concluded that the siltation in the port is so extreme that it “poses a serious danger to the safety at sea.” The port has two small dredges --Marino Rivas and Arciniegas -- working to clear the material, but they have had maintenance problems.

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