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Port of Brownsville achieves milestone in channel deepening project

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Tanks and Terminals,

The Port of Brownsville is closer to deepening the Brownsville Ship Channel after receiving a key permit on 6 June from the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to advance the Brazos Island Harbor Channel Improvement Project (BIH) to its construction phase.

The USACE permit is the latest milestone in the port’s effort to deepen the ship channel from 42 ft to 52 ft, resulting in significant navigational safety improvements for commercial shipping in South Texas.

“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,” said John Reed, Brownsville Navigation District Chairman. “These crucial infrastructure projects solidify our presence in the global market and create better economic opportunities for our local workforce.”

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

Planning to deepen the ship channel from 42 ft began 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 authorised the channel deepening project, making the BIH eligible to receive federal funding.

The project may cost upwards of US$350 million, with construction expected to commence in 2020. The port expects to pay for the project with a combination of public, private and federal funds.

Demonstrating confidence in the public-private partnership (P3) strategy, NextDecade Corp., owner of the proposed Rio Grande LNG natural gas liquefaction plant at the port, announced a landmark agreement with the BND on 24 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. NextDecade’s part includes perhaps the most challenging and costly portions.

Other proposed port projects are expected to join the P3, sharing the costs and benefits of deepening the channel.

Completion of the channel deepening is important in attracting new business opportunities and allowing existing companies at the port to further expand their services. In addition, 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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