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Port of Brownsville achieves milestone in channel deepening project

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LNG Industry,

The Port of Brownsville has announced that it has received a key permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to advance the Brazos Island Harbor Channel Improvement Project (BIH) to its construction phase.

According to the statement, this permit is the latest milestone in the port’s effort to deepen the ship channel from 42 ft to 52 ft. This will lead to significant navigational safety improvements for commercial shipping in South Texas.

John Reed, Brownsville Navigation District Chairman, said: “Today we find ourselves on the verge of a new economic era for the Rio Grande Valley and the channel deepening is essential for our continued progress and success.

“These crucial infrastructure projects solidify our presence in the global market and create better economic opportunities for our local workforce.”

Once complete, the Port of Brownsville will reportedly be one of the deepest ports on the Gulf of Mexico, enhancing its competitiveness by closely aligning with the design features of the expanded Panama Canal.

According to the statement, planning to deepen the ship channel first started in 2007 with a project feasibility study. In 2014, the USACE completed the feasibility study recommending deepening the channel to 52 ft. Two years later, the US Congress officially authorised the project, making the BIH eligible to receive federal funding.

The Port of Brownsville claims that the project may cost more than US$350 million, with construction expected to commence next year. In the statement, the port claims that it is expecting to pay for the project with a combination of public, private and federal funds.

Illustrating confidence in the public-private partnership (P3) strategy, NextDecade Corp., the owner of the proposed Rio Grande LNG project located at the port, announced a landmark agreement with the BND in April, agreeing to pay 100% of the deepening project from the western boundary of its lease site along the ship channel to the channel’s offshore origin (more than nine miles) – or more than half of the deepening project. According to the Port of Brownsville, NextDecade’s part includes arguably the most challenging and costly portions.

It is expected that other proposed port projects will join the P3, sharing the costs and benefits of deepening the channel.

According to the statement, completion of the deepening project is crucial for attracting new business opportunities and for allowing existing companies at the port to further expand their own services. In addition to this, the port will be able to accommodate deeper draft cargo vessels carrying heavier loads, which translates to a greater economic impact per vessel for the region.

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