Dredging of Kingston Harbour begins

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

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Seven weeks into the dredging of Port Bustamante in the Kingston Harbour to facilitate larger ships coming through the Panama Canal, the company contracted to do the excavation is reporting that there are "no visible impacts" on fishing beaches in proximity to the operation sites.

Using a trailing suction hopper dredger with a capacity of 14,000 cubic metres, Sodraco has so far been removing soft material — clay, silt and some sand — and dumping it some 15 miles south-west of the terminal where the waters are about 600 metres deep. It makes eight trips per 24-hour day and should remove a total volume of seven million cubic metres. Once the soft material is completely removed, a cutter suction dredger will tackle the rock-based material.

The dredging is part of the Kingston Container Terminal (KCT) Expansion Project which is being marshalled by concessionaire Kingston Freeport Terminal Ltd (KFTL). It is being completed in phases, the first of which is scheduled to end late in 2018.

Speaking with journalists on a tour of the dredging vessel yesterday, environment and social manager at Sodraco Jan Van Den Bogaert said all potential impacts of the dredging were laid out in an environmental impact assessment and subsequently defined in a permit issued by the National Environment and Planning Agency. Among the stipulations the permit makes are:

• The stationary dredger can’t anchor in coral or among sea grasses;

• Sensitive areas — including mangroves, seagrasses, and coral reefs — have to be monitored for sedimentation;

• 500 metres of a heavy duty silt curtain must be installed between the dredge area and the protected site of the Sunken City in Port Royal;

• 1,500 metres of turbidity curtain will be kept at the ready to be deployed adjacent to dredging locations to protect sensitive areas; and

• Dredging must stop if turbidity levels reach 29 NTU

"The alarm is triggered at 20 NTU, and we stop at 29 NTU. That’s stricter than even Florida, because we want to do the best we can," Project Manager Eric Fernagu added.

Bogaert said further that the company is mandated to maintain a channel of communication with fishers in 14 beach communities, including those in Port Royal, Greenwich Farm, Portmore, and Old Harbour Bay. He said representatives of seven of them have already visited the dredger and met with the team.

KFTL assumed operations of KCT — Jamaica’s main trans-shipment port — by way of a 30-year concession agreement between itself and the Port Authority of Jamaica, allowing it to finance, develop, expand, and operate the facility over the period. The agreement took effect in July last year.

The project is being completed in phases, the first of which comes in at US$452 million, with dredging and quay wall reinforcement eating up US$150 million of the sum.

— Kimone Thompson






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