Monday, September 12, 2011

DEEPENING CONCERN

The Port of Miami is awaiting final approval for a dredging plan to deepen the Main Approach Channel and South Channel (see Chart 11468) leading to the container berths and South Terminal for cruise ships.  This is necessary so that the larger container ships able to transit the Panama Canal in 2014 will be able to use the Port.  Pretty straight forward and it makes sense right - well not exactly. 


The Main Approach Channel was dredged several times, 1986, 1991, 1999, 2005 and the South Channel was created from the old Fisherman's Channel.  Unfortunately the dredging operational record is spotty, in 1999 three acres of seagrass were gauged out from an aquatic preserve that is a manatee habitat. 


In 2005 a hydraulic cutting dredge and scow caused plumes of milky silt to waft around before settling down to the bottom again.  Of course the environmentalists, who grasp at any straw - plume? - to cause an event, were outraged as if this was the end for all manatees.  The South Channel is currently used by all the Miami Riverport traffic, cruise ships going to the South Terminal, MSRC's SRV Florida Responder and its associated equipment, the container ships using the container Port and yes the manatees are still around.


Project "Deep Dredge" will create some 30,000 jobs and with no guarantee to be repaid the State of Florida is fronting the Federal half of the $150 million to get things started.  The State and Miami-Dade County will take care of the other half - the Port of Miami is a Miami-Dade County Department.


The plan calls for deepening the Main Channel to 52 feet which will accommodate the container ships now 1000 feet long, using the improved Panama Canal.  Of course some local fishermen along with the usual environmental groups are writing letters indicating this is the end of the world.   While it is an area of concern the Port and dredging Managers say they have learned from past mistakes and shall be able to avoid past problems.  The other side says Biscayne Bay is doomed and that the snook, tarpon, and sea turtles will be destroyed by the underwater blasting.  The plumes of silt will destroy the seagrass and reefs but mainly it seems to NAUTICAL LOG the tourists and fishermen are upset by declining catches and murky water.  So it really comes down to the needs of the chosen few on vacation over the requirements of  the many who live and work here raising families in this large multi-everything southern city and its Port.  Most environmentalists have negative tunnel vision and are often not good at seeing the overall picture which is a pity because their input is most important to a project.


Good Watch.

Those 400 of our fellow seafarers are still held captive by pirates both ashore and off the coast of Somalia.  Over the weekend there was another yacht attacked off Yemen causing death and captivity fortunately these captives were rescued by combined Spanish and French warship operations.

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