Shallow-draft river port is overcoming obstacles

By: | at 07:00 PM | Channel(s): Ports & Terminals  

By Paul Scott Abbott, AJOTMaintaining the flow of international waterborne commerce along the Miami River seems to be a constant struggle. Nonetheless, buoyed by recent favorable legal decisions and the resumption of dredging, maritime interests along the river are remaining encouraged.
The greatest challenges to the working river have come from the City of Miami and developers eager see high-rise condominiums spring up on downtown riverfront property. The developers’ scheme is to buy at low cost sites zoned for industrial use, then get city officials to rezone the properties to facilitate high-density residential development.
Miami River interests have recently prevailed at the state appellate court level in three cases against the city and developers – thus succeeding in blocking the replacement with residential towers of a cargo terminal, a boatyard and a yacht basin.
“We’ve been playing a game of survival,” said Fran Bohnsack, executive director of the Miami River Marine Group, a private port cooperative of cargo carriers and marine-related industry dedicated to preserving the working river.
River terminals combined last year to move 1 million tons of containerized cargo, plus additional breakbulk volumes, making the Miami River the fifth-busiest port in Florida, according to Bohnsack.
This year, the Miami River may have trouble upholding that ranking. The river’s longtime leading carrier, Antillean Marine Shipping Corp., has elected to move its Haiti, Dominican Republic and Panama liner services north to Broward County’s Port Everglades. Furthermore, overall trade is languishing with Haiti, a focus market for several of the river’s independent operators. A heartening note comes in that commerce with the river’s other key market, the Bahamas, continues to be solid.
Also on the positive side is the fact that, with virtually all of the necessary $75 million in funding secured, dredging of the river has been resumed. The project will ensure maintenance of the river’s original depth of 17 feet – a depth that heavy sedimentation has reduced in some places to as few as 13 feet.

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For more than a quarter of a century, Paul Scott Abbott has been writing and shooting images for the American Journal of Transportation, applying four decades of experience as an award-winning journalist. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, with a master’s magna cum laude from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Abbott has served as president of chapters of the Propeller Club of the United States, Florida Public Relations Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Abbott honed his skills on several daily newspapers, including [em]The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Richmond (Va.) News Leader, Albuquerque Journal and (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel, and was editor and publisher of The County Line, a weekly newspaper he founded in suburban Richmond, Va.[/em] A native Chicagoan, he is a member of American Mensa and an ever-optimistic fan of the Chicago Cubs.