On October 9, John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, signed a contract with New Jersey-based Weeks Marine to start the deepening of the western side of the Thimble Shoal Channel. In late September, the port’s Board of Commissioners approved the contract with Weeks.

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The contract for the first phase is $78 million and the overall cost of the project, including the preliminary engineering and design work, is $350 million. The work includes dredging the shipping channels to 55 feet and widening the channel to over 1,400 feet in specific areas. When dredging is complete in 2024, the commercial channels serving the Norfolk Harbor will be able to accommodate two ultra-large container vessels at the same time.

"When the work is complete, Virginia will be the only East Coast port with this capability. The vessel sizes continue to expand, so safe, two-way ULCV traffic is important to the sustainability and efficiency of this port and to the ocean carriers using the channel."

Mr. Reinhart said.

This project along with the $750 million the Port is investing to increase container capacity by 1 million units per year, aims to make Virginia the key gateway for trade on the East Coast.

In 2015, the deepening effort began when the US Army Corps of Engineers and the port signed a Feasibility Cost Share Agreement that committed each side to sharing the cost of evaluating the benefits of dredging the Norfolk Harbor to a depth beyond 50 feet.