Milestone Dredging Contract Awarded in Corpus Christi Ship Channel Deepening Project

port of corpus christi
Photo: Port of Corpus Christi

The first contract to begin dredging the Port of Corpus Christi ship channel to make room for fully-loaded supertankers has been awarded in what in seen as milestone moment for the future of U.S. energy exports.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) awarded a $92 million construction contract to Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company to deepen and widen the Corpus Christi Ship Channel (CCSC) from the Gulf of Mexico to Harbor Island, as part of the Channel Improvement Project (CIP).

The contract will increase the depth of the channel from -47 feet Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW) to -54 feet from the jetties at the entrance of the ship channel to Harbor Island. It will also extend the shipping channel into the Gulf of Mexico to -56 feet.

“The award of this first dredging contract is without a doubt the most important development we will see in 2019,” said Charles W. Zahn, Chairman for the Port of Corpus Christi Commission. “Building critical infrastructure for the energy sector is our primary mission and will allow larger vessels access to much needed export facilities, safely and responsibly.”

Currently, the only terminal in the continental United States that is capable handling fully loaded Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) is the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port located approximately 18 miles off the coast in the Gulf of Mexico.

Back in October, private equity firm The Carlyle Group signed an exclusive agreement with the Port of Corpus Christi to develop a major crude oil export terminal that is capable of handling VLCCs. The terminal will be located on Harbor Island, which is situated on Red Fish Bay opposite the city of Aransas Pass, Texas. The site encompasses 256 acres of most undeveloped land that includes deep-water, highway, and channel frontage.

The project would create the first onshore location in the U.S. Gulf capable of handling the world’s largest oil tankers.

In November, the USACE announced its Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Work Plan an additional $59 million in funding for the port’s Channel Improvement Project, bringing the total Federal appropriations to $95 million.

“We commend the Army Corps of Engineers for progressing the highly anticipated Corpus Christi Ship Channel Improvement Project, and the selection of Great Lakes Dredge & Dock to perform on this first contract is an extraordinary step forward in positioning the United States as the largest exporter of energy in the world,” said Sean Strawbridge, Chief Executive Officer for the Port of Corpus Christi.