Gregg Farmer Maritime Safety Blog
Marine Navigation Safety harbor pilot
The Reserved channel in South Boston is not growing in size but it is about to grow in depth and vessel congestion. With the funding now in place for the navigation improvement project to begin, the challenge of safely navigating ships calling on two terminals within the Reserved channel in South Boston is about to become a reality. With a channel width of approximately 600ft the margin of safety is about to change when New Panamax vessels start to arrive on a regular basis. Conley terminal will be capable of accepting New Panamax 160ft beam container vessels. One can only assume New Panamax Passenger vessels are soon to follow. Today the ships berthing regularly in the Reserved channel are 106ft Beam. The cranes at Conley extend father into the Reserved channel to 135ft. The new cranes that will be built to accommodate the New Panamax beam ships will reach out 170ft. When the cruise ship season is in full swing there are times when three ship widths decrease the navigable channel to 25% and less in inclement weather. To say that maneuvering ships safely in the New Panamax era will be a challenge is an understatement. Tugs in the Reserved channel may become a regular occurrence for those cruise ships who normally do not want to utilize a tug. Most cruise ships have their own thrusters but when winds increase and the size of vessels increase the navigable channel will not accommodate a crab angle great enough to safely maneuver without Z-Drive tugs tethered to a ship.
Furthermore, the commercial strain on the working port of Boston is real. Waterfront development along Boston harbor is at a premium for real estate developers trying to find ways to develop on land designated for Marine Industrial use. Also, the third harbor tunnel (Ted Williams) has forever constricted dredging the upper harbor to 40 feet. This leaves everything south and east of the tunnel (South Boston) the only area that can accommodate a New Panamax vessel. With the loss of virtually all the deep-water ship berth space to real estate development in East Boston there is little left in the Port of Boston for ships to bring in new business. Also, the loss of rail and double stacking to the berths forces Massport customers to rely on a trucking corridor to the Alston rail yards.