Every fall, Chris Ransome & Associates (CRA, Inc.) and Orion Marine Group sponsor an annual seminar to raise awareness for maintenance dredging in ports, harbors and waterways such as the Houston Ship Channel.
With more marine construction underway and new docks coming online in Texas, there are many challenges that the private industry of the region is now facing, such as the availability of upland placement and the economic disposal of dredged material.
On November 5th, around 180 marine terminal operators, civil engineers, shipping agents, port authorities and federal officials gathered at Brady’s Landing Restaurant to learn more about these obstacles as well as other popular dredging topics such as permitting, hazardous waste management, vessel groundings, dredging costs, beneficial use and sediment testing.
Industry Being Proactive
This year’s key message of the event was to “plan early.” A planning process that used to be three to five months has evolved into a one year or longer stage in order to fulfill all regulatory, administrative and technical requirements such as the permits, licenses and sediment testing.
The annual seminar itself, which started back in 2002, is a platform for industry to network and engage with the various agencies. The event has received such strong feedback that it is now held every other year in the Beaumont/Pt. Arthur/Sabine area.
“We think that expanding the meeting to Southeast Texas is very valuable since that area is also very busy and will continue to grow with the upcoming widening project of the Sabine-Neches Waterway,” said Chris Ransome, president of CRA, Inc.
A Unique Concept
There is no doubt that the importance of the “dredging your docks” theme has influenced the maritime community. Steve Nerheim, Director of Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) for the Coast Guard Houston/Galveston Sector, reported that there were no vessel groundings at berths this year, which is a significant milestone considering the Houston Ship Channel just celebrated its one hundredth year anniversary since opening in 1914.
Attendees of the conference receive lunch and certificates are made available to professional engineers needing continuing education credits. “The event is not only informative, but it is successful because you have all the right people in the same room,” said Robert Baker, Marine Superintendent for ExxonMobil in Baytown.
With the support of the Galveston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Port of Houston, Houston Pilots and U.S. Coast Guard, the general coordination and participation of the event has been very positive over the years, with the highest effort forward to continue to help shape the Houston Ship Channel to be the transportation and commerce dynamo that it is.
“However, our overall goal is to reach out to the other state-wide ports that connect and exchange with Houston, such as Texas City, Galveston, Freeport, Calhoun County and Corpus Christi because siltation and sedimentation problems affect them just as much as anywhere else,” said Mark Coyle, Vice President of Business Development for Orion Marine Group.