News and information for the worldwide dredging industry

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Dredging began this summer on a two-mile channel to the port of Casasa on the key of Cayo Coco, according to Prensa Latina. The dredging promises to be one of the largest infrastructure projects in Cuba this year, costing about $2 million. As it stands, only small vessels of 200 tons or less can reach Casasa. The new channel, which will be 270 feet wide and 18 feet deep, will allow ships of 2,400 tons and up to 300 feet long. Until now, all goods had to be shipped by truck over the dam that connects Cayo Coco to mainland Cuba. The new channel will allow for cheaper shipping of fuel, construction supplies, and food. It could also allow some cruise ships to call at the port.

This spring, for the first time in more than 15 years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers solicited bids for the dredging of Arecibo Harbor in Puerto Rico. In August, it announced it had awarded the project to Weeks Marine, Inc., of Covington, Louisiana. The last time the harbor was dredged was the mid-1990s. The harbor has a required depth of 25 feet plus two feet allowable overdepth, and will require about 185,000 cubic yards of material to be removed by a clamshell dredge. The Corps of Engineers will pay $2.7 million for the work.

Dredging continues on Acu port in the state of Rio de Janeiro, which aims to eventually become the largest port complex in Latin America, according to MarketWatch. The port’s developer, Brazilian company LLX Logistica SA, has been losing money as it continues to invest in construction, but the company is beginning to recoup its investment as it rents out space on the property. In 2011, dredging giant Boskalis bagged the $285 million deal to dredge access and inner channels, a turning basin, a harbor basin, and to conduct reclamation work. The dredging and quay construction is expected to be completed by the end of this year, and shipping could begin in 2013. The port will be able to accommodate 26.6 tons per year iron ore production and is also an important coal shipping facility.

Uruguay hopes to sidestep conflicts with Argentina over dredging their shared channel through Rio de la Plata by planning a new deep-water port on its Atlantic Coast. This summer, Uruguay’s president Jose Mujica approached the visiting prime minister of China about possibly investing in such a project, reported MercoPress. Uruguay has for years been frustrated because Argentina has refused to allow expansion dredging in the Martin Garcia Channel. The channel is jointly governed by the two countries, but it is of more vital importance to Uruguay, which has several ports dependent on it. The idea of a deep-sea port in easternmost Uruguay – which would not be dependent on the Martin Garcia Channel – has been floating around for decades. But the possibility is now looking more plausible, since according to Mujica, the Chinese prime minister expressed interest in such an investment. Mujica said he will send a delegation to Beijing in the coming months to explore the project further. The new port would be located near the border of Brazil, in an area where there are positive indications that oil and gas drilling may be possible.

Nicaragua is continuing on its mission to upend Panama’s monopoly on shortcuts between oceans. Nicaragua has proposed constructing its own canal to connect the Atlantic and Pacific, even wider and deeper than the Panama Canal. In September, the Nicaraguan government signed a memorandum of understanding with a newly formed company created by a Chinese telecom mogul for financing of the project, according to the Nicaragua Dispatch. The “Great Canal of Nicaragua” would consist of both a traditional waterway for ships and a “dry canal” for freight – projects that are expected to cost some $30 billion. In June, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega submitted a draft plan that details six possible routes for the canal. One of those would pass through the San Juan River, which borders Costa Rica, and which has been the source of hot conflict between the two countries in recent years. The idea of a canal through Nicaragua has been around for centuries, because the country is so narrow. Recent administrations have begun to pose the idea as a way to pull the country out of its crushing poverty.

American water technology company Xylem has opened an office in Panama City, in response to growth in its market there. The company produces pumps that are used on dredges, and its Flygt and Godwin pumps are currently being used for dredging and construction work in the Panama Canal expansion project. The company also sees potential growth in Panama’s developing mines.

Five years into the expansion of the Panama Canal, and it is nearly halfway done. In September, the Panama Canal Authority announced that the project was about 45 percent done. The dredging through Gatun Lake was also completed this summer. That project consisted of removing some 38 million cubic yards of material to deepen and widen Gatun Lake and Culebra Cut Navigation Channels, mostly conducted by Panama Canal Authority dredges and personnel. (See IDR, May/June 2012 – cover and pp. 6 and 7) The work on the north reaches of Gatun Lake was the charge of contractor Dredging International de Panama SA. The canal authority says the expansion should take another two years to complete.

The Panama Canal Authority’s long-time CEO was honored when IHC Merwede named its new backhoe dredge after him in a special ceremony in the Netherlands on Sept. 28. The dredge was named ALBERTO ALEMÁN ZUBIETA in a ceremony attended by Zubieta, the current administrator Jorge Quijano, several deputy administrators, engineers, and the future captain of the dredge. Zubieta’s wife, Ana Matilde Alemán, performed the ceremony, which took place at the shipyard of IHC Merwede’s cooperation partner NMC in Nieuw-Lekkerland. Zubieta served as the chief administrator of the Panama Canal Authority from 1996 until this year, when he retired and Quijano was chosen to fill his shoes. Zubieta retired in an auspicious year for the canal: it reached a new tonnage record of 333.7 Panama Canal tons during fiscal year 2012.

The Costa Rican transport ministry temporarily shut down ferry service from Puntarenas to Paquera and Playa Naranjo in September to allow for a dredging operation by Jan de Nul, according to various Costa Rican press. The project proved to be quite inconvenient for the local population, because without ferry service, the communities of Paquera and Playa Naranjo on the remote Nicoya Peninsula are isolated. The ferries shut down for more than a week to allow for dredging, but the dredge itself didn’t show up for the first few days of that period. Once it did show up, it worked 24 hours a day so the ferries could get back online. Ultimately, dredging removed 15,000 cubic meters of sediment at a cost of $297,000 to the transport ministry. The ministry said the project was necessary for long-term maintenance and safety.

Residents of the Venezuelan district Miranda are blaming a lack of dredging for three floods that have occurred this year, reports El Nacional of Caracas. In October, heavy rains caused the San Pedro River to overflow in the town of Los Teques, flooding 33 homes, five businesses, and a police station. It also stranded many cars in town. Several other communities suffered flooding damage as well. The administration of the Guaicaipuro municipality has dredging equipment and has committed to dredge the river to help with the flooding problem, but they have not been working quickly on the project, according to local residents interviewed by El Nacional.

Jan de Nul’s dredge Filippo Bruneleschi has begun removing 325,000 cubic meters of sediment from the access channel to the port of Barranquilla. Colombian publication La Republica reported that port authority Asoportuaria contracted Jan de Nul for the job, which was expected to take just a few weeks, and must be conducted periodically to keep the channel clear. The contract was for $4.1 million.

The main entrance channel to the port of Ingeniero White, about six miles outside of Bahia Blanca in Argentina’s province of Buenos Aires, will be deepened and widened now that funding has been guaranteed. The publication La Nueva Provincia reported that company Nación Fideicomiso has agreed to guarantee a loan to the port, which will become Argentina’s deepest port at 50 feet.

Bolivian leaders urgently want the river Pilcomayo dredged to allow the fish that once swam abundantly in the river to reach their landlocked nation – and have even gone so far as to purchase the necessary dredging equipment. However, the sections of river that must be dredged are in Paraguay and Argentina, and those nations have not agreed to allow them to take action in their territory. The Bolivian publication Opinión reported that indigenous leader Antonio Tato is urging the two neighboring countries to sign an accord allowing the dredging.

In El Salvador, an environmental dredging project is going on – the old fashioned way. Local residents of the Lower Lempa River Basin, which empties into the Pacific Ocean, brought chainsaws, machetes, and shovels to the waterway to unblock the flow of rivers, reported UN environmental publication Tierramerica. Several teams are working to clear – by hand – about 4.2 kilometers of the El Espino and El Borbollón rivers, both located in the basin. The rivers have slowly been blocked, which have led to them overflowing into nearby villages and farmlands. A third team has been clearing roots and sediment from the mangrove forests of Jiquilisco Bay, where the blocked swamp has prevented seawater from flowing in during high tide. This has done harm to the mangrove forests, which depend on saltwater.

The Maritime Authority of Suriname (MAS) will be dredging the Suriname River an additional one meter from the Atlantic to the Nieuwe Haven Port in Paramaribo, reported the publication de Ware Tijd. The dredging will allow the river to accommodate 30 percent more freight. The dredging is considerably less than what international freight handler DP World had asked for – it requested the river be dredged four meters deeper than it currently is. But MAS leaders decided to start with one meter. The agency will open the tender for the project by the end of the year, according to de Ware Tijd.

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