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Virginia's Ports Must be WIDER DEEPER SAFER®

wider deeper safer


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Thanks to action by the Virginia General Assembly and the Governor in 2014 authorizing over $6 million to perform the necessary preliminary studies, Virginia is on its way to dredging the Norfolk Harbor to a depth of 55-59 feet and widths up to 1,400 feet, and the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River to depths up to 45 feet. Total project costs are estimated at just over $322 million, cost-shared between the State and Federal Governments.

The U.S. Corps of Engineers has determined the project will have a beneficial-cost ratio of 4.93 to 1, returning nearly $5 in national economic benefits for each dollar invested.

How are Virginia's Ports Getting Ready for Wider, Deeper, Safer®?

  1. Perform Studies for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers General Re-evaluation Report (funded)
  2. Preparation & Approval of General Re-evaluation Report (funded)
  3. Project Engineering & Design - $2 million  (funded)
  4. Project Contracting - Funding Commitment Needed (funded and ongoing)
  5. Complete construction by 2025 - $244 million Federal Cost Share Needed

Record Breaking ULCV to Call Virginia

 Photo  Vessel TEU Capacity Length (feet) Width (feet)  Arrived
 COSCO Development COSCO Development  13,092 1,200  157.5  May '17
 CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt  14,863 1,200 157.5  Aug '17
 EVERGREEN M/V Triton EVERGREEN M/V Triton 15,313 1,210 167  May '19
 CMA CGM Brazil CMA CGM Brazil
(Largest container load)
15,300 1,200 167  Sept '20


    • Deeper channels reduce the transportation costs for shipping goods internationally making Virginia-made goods, businesses, and our Commonwealth more competitive in the global marketplace.
    • By widening our channels, Virginia will be able to accommodate for two-way traffic when Ultra Large Container Vessels (ULCVs) call our ports.
    • Virginia’s 50-foot channels have given our ports a competitive advantage. As ships continue to increase in size, we must retain our ports’ capability to receive and sail the largest vessels, fully loaded and regardless of tides and weather.
    • Having benefited from having the deepest channels on the East Coast, Virginia’s advantage is now being lost. New York, Baltimore and Miami have attained 50-foot channels, Charleston has approvals and funding committed to dredge to 52 feet in 2019, and the other major East Coast ports are deepening their channels to compete with Virginia.
Wider Deeper Safer Ports in Virginia The Port of Virginia has the opportunity to keep its competitive edge and market share against other East Coast ports by taking our main channels to 55 feet and the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River to 45 feet.

Membership with the VMA directly supports advocacy for projects like Wider Deeper Safer.


September 15, 2020 | Biggest Vessel in Port’s History Calls; 15,000-Plus-TEU CMA CGM Brazil
At more than 1,200 feet long and nearly 170 feet wide, the containership CMA CGM Brazil is massive. It is more than 100 feet longer than most U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and is bigger than any containership to call The Port of Virginia® or come to the U.S. East Coast when considering the load. Multiple labor shifts handled nearly 3,300 containers of exports and imports (combined).

December 1, 2019 | First Phase of Deepening to 55 Feet Began
The work that started Sunday, December 1, nearly two-and-a-half years ahead of schedule, will deepen the western side of Thimble Shoal Channel, which leads into the Norfolk Harbor, to 56 feet. When dredging is complete in 2024, the commercial channels serving the Norfolk Harbor will be able to simultaneously accommodate two, ultra-large container vessels.

October 2019 | Contract Signed with Weeks Marine to begin First Phase of Dredging
In October, the port and New Jersey-based Weeks Marine finalized the contract for the first phase of work. The contract for the first phase is $78 million and the total cost of the project, including the preliminary engineering and design work, is $350 million.

May 26, 2019 | M/V Triton Calls on Virginia (15,313 TEU)
M/V Triton, an Ultra Large Container Vessel that called on the Port of Virginia on May 26, 2019.  With capacity of up to 15,313 TEU and dimensions of 1210-ft by 167-ft, Triton is the largest vessel Virginia has seen to date.

Oct 23, 2018 | One Step Closer to Wider, Deeper Channels
On Tuesday, October 23rd President Trump signed the American’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, which included the authorization for the deepening of the Thimble Shoals Channel to 56 feet and the Atlantic Ocean Channel to a depth of 59 feet.  Additionally, this act authorizes the widening of the Thimble Shoals Channel to 1,400 feet, allowing for two-way traffic and accommodating ultra-large container vessels.  These exceed the existing authorizations to dredge the Norfolk and Newport News channels to 55 feet. Read More...

Jul 2, 2018 | U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's Positive Report Allows Inclusion of Wider Deeper Safer into Federal WRDA Bill
The Army Corps’ Chief of Engineers’ Report is the final federal review of the project and clears the way for the deepening and widening of the commercial shipping channels serving the Norfolk Harbor. The positive report allows the project to be included in the federal Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill, which is a larger list of projects eligible for federal matching funds. The projects in the WRDA bill that receive funding are determined during the federal budget process. Read More...

May 30, 2018 | General Assembly Approves $350M Budget 
A coalition of legislators, led by Suffolk Delegate Chris Jones, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, included $330M of bonding authorization in the budget for the dredging project upon completion of the preliminary engineering ($20M).  Read more...

February 18, 2018 | General Assembly Budget Proposals Include Widening & Deepening
The Virginia House of Delegates Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Finance Committee both released their versions of a two-year budget proposal for the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Both the House and Senate budgets contain funding for advancing the planning and preliminary engineering requirements for widening and dredging of the Norfolk Harbor Channel to 55 feet and dredging the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River to 45 feet.

The House budget also contains full bond authorization for the entire dredging project, which sends a very strong signal to the global marketplace that Virginia is committed to this project and is open for business.  The Virginia Maritime Association (VMA) strongly supports this full bond authorization, which recognizes the critical importance of widening and deepening the Port of Virginia’s harbor and channels. The VMA believes that now is the time to secure the future of our Port and the economic well being of our Commonwealth.

December 2017 | USACE Recommended Plan for Elizabeth River & Southern Branch
The Corps of Engineers will be accepting public comments until January 15, 2018 on the Elizabeth River and Southern Branch Navigation Improvements Draft General Reevaluation Report/Environmental Assessment (Draft GRR/EA). Comments should be submitted to David Schulte, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District, at 757-201-7009 or
View Report:

November 9, 2017 | Corps of Engineers Releases Report Supporting Deepening of Channels
Corps of Engineers released the Norfolk Harbor Navigation Improvements Draft General Reevaluation Report/Environmental Assessment (Draft GRR/EA) for public review and comment – with comments due by December 9.   (

August 28, 2017 | OOCL THEODORE ROOSEVELT Arrives in Hampton Roads (14,400TEU)

May 8, 2017 | The COSCO Development Arrives in Hampton Roads.

The COSCO Development is the largest ship to call on the US's Eastern Coast and it called in Norfolk first!

Watch the video documenting the commemoration ceremony of its arrival.



Thank you to our Anchor Members



Virginia Maritime Association
236 E. Plume Street Norfolk, VA 23510
Phone: 757-622-2639
Fax: 757-622-6302