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Giving Dredging the Awareness It Deserves

As more large ships come into our ports, the displacement of water causes more sand and sediment buildup. This buildup can be easily dealt with through dredging projects, which simply move the buildup via a specialized piece of equipment called a dredge. Without dredging, ships run the risk of getting stuck in the buildup. They can take months to free because of their sheer size. This is especially true for ships stuck in the U.S. because our technology is severely lacking in this area. 


The largest U.S. dredge in 2015 had a capacity of 15,000 cubic yards while some of the largest international dredges since 2009 had a 46,000 cubic yard capacity. When the Taiwanese-based Ever Forward container ship was stuck in Baltimore, it took nearly a month to be freed by U.S. dredges. This stoked environmental concerns about ships due to the amount of fuel stored in large ships. Mishandling these ships can cause leaks, which exacerbate pollution in our waters and create catastrophic oil spills. As many ports are central fishing regions, the welfare of the fishing industry is also jeopardized.


Advancing U.S. dredging projects is imperative, given how dependent the United States is on imports. According to Statista, the total value of United States imports in 2021 is $2.83 trillion: over half of our total value in U.S. trade goods.


Due to The Foreign Dredge Act of 1906, the United States is forced to rely on solely U.S.-manufactured dredging technology. This alone wouldn’t be an issue, but this act coupled with the lack of both private and federal investment shows exactly why our dredges are minuscule when compared to our international counterparts. 


The main reason behind the lack of investment in dredging is minimal public awareness. Dredging is infrequently fought for; it remains far from the forefront of the legislative floor. 


Of the very few introduced, one promising bill is the Ship It bill, introduced by Representative Michelle Fischbach and Representative Byron Donalds. This bill would allow NATO countries to send their dredging technologies when required to help the United States with port congestion. Four of the largest international dredging companies are NATO members.


More legislation must come forth to bring progress to American dredging projects. 


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Cassandra Flandre-Nguyen is a first-year student at Orange Coast College as a Political Science major with a Public Policy focus and Pre-Law Emphasis. She is an Infrastructure Policy Intern at Our National Conversation.


Sources: 

Diaz, Jaclyn. “The Ever Forward is finally free from the Chesapeake Bay — one month later.” NPR, 17 April 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/04/17/1093245643/ever-forward-freed-maryland. Accessed 29 September 2022.

Fischbach. “Rep. Fischbach Introduces the SHIP IT Act with Rep. Donalds.” Michelle Fischbach, 18 April 2022, https://fischbach.house.gov/press-releases?ID=4F614F16-52D9-49FD-BDF6-BCAB96DEF241. Accessed 29 September 2022. Accessed 29 September 2022.

Fitzsimons, Michael. “Proceedings of the 2017 Dredging Summit and Expo.” Proceedings of the 2017 Dredging Summit and Expo, 26 June 2017, https://www.westerndredging.org/phocadownload/2017_Vancouver/Proceedings/6b_2.pdf. Accessed 29 September 2022.

“GAO-14-290, Army Corps of Engineers: Actions Needed to Further Improve Management of Hopper Dredging.” Government Accountability Office, 10 April 2014, https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-14-290.pdf. Accessed 28 September 2022. Accessed 29 September 2022.

Rosenberg, Lizzy. “The Impact of the 'Ever Forward' Container Ship Could Be Long-Lasting.” Green Matters, 23 March 2022, https://www.greenmatters.com/p/ever-forward-container-ship-impact. Accessed 29 September 2022.

“Total value of U.S. trade worldwide 2021.” Statista, 15 February 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/218255/total-value-of-us-trade-in-goods-worldwide-since-2004/. Accessed 28 September 2022.

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