WASHINGTON (MAY 23, 2019) -- The Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, the Honorable R.D. James, traveled to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District on May 9 to meet with Virginia Port Authority leaders.

James was accompanied by his Deputy Assistant for Project Planning and Review, Mr. David Leach, and Norfolk District Commander, Col. Patrick Kinsman, on a tour of Norfolk Harbor aboard Survey Vessel Ewell, where they saw Virginia International Gateway, Craney Island, and Navy and Coast Guard facilities.

"Norfolk District is preparing to 'Move Dirt' in Norfolk Harbor and start dredging to allow for larger vessel activity within the port and a safer transit for all," said James. "The influx of activity will have a huge beneficial economic impact on the port, Virginia, and the nation."

The Port of Virginia is a global gateway for the United States with regular service to 45 countries. It services the largest ships to call on the United States' East Coast. It is the third-largest container port on the coast with 2.4 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2014, and the nation's largest coal export port with 36.7 million tons in 2014.

The Port of Virginia receives on average about four ultra-large container vessels per week, mostly over 14,000 feet in length. The upcoming expansion will reduce the vessel delays that are caused by these ultra-large ships.

The "Wider, Deeper, Safer" dredging project will make the Port of Virginia one of the deepest ports on the East Coast and deepen the Inner Harbor channels to 55 feet, Chesapeake Bay's Thimble Shoal Channel to 56 feet, and Atlantic Ocean Channel to 59 feet. The Thimble Shoal Channel will also be widened up to 1,400 feet in select areas, allowing for ultra-large container vessel two-way traffic.

This project will make transit in and out of the Port of Virginia safer for some of the largest ships in the Atlantic Ocean. Deeper channels mean larger ships and larger ships mean lower transportation costs, the savings of which are passed on to the general population as lower commodity costs.

In addition to the added safety for commercial vessels, the ships stationed at Naval Station Norfolk will also benefit from the deeper and wider navigation channels as they travel to and from their homeport and the open ocean.

"We were pleased to host Secretary James and his colleagues here at the Port of Virginia so they could witness firsthand how his revolutionizing of the Corps is moving projects forward," said Cathie Vick, Chief Public Affairs Officer, Virginia Port Authority. "We appreciate the time spent with the team from the Norfolk District, the Port and our other federal partners to understand how turning dirt here will support global trade across the country as well as our national security."

Planned navigation improvements are currently ahead of schedule and dredging may begin as early as January 2020. When completed this will be the deepest channel on the East Coast and will drive growth at the port, create economic development, and create jobs throughout Virginia for decades to come.

For more information on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Norfolk Harbor Navigation Improvements visit: https://www.nao.usace.army.mil/About/Projects/Norfolk-Harbor-Channel-Deepening/