Delayed deepening of Boston’s port could cost New England ships

Blair Miller & Jason Solowski | Fox 25 WFXT

A major plan to deepen the waters of the port in Boston could reduce prices on store shelves all over New England, officials say.

The move would allow larger cargo ships into the port, which would be bring better prices.

Nautical history goes back centuries in Boston Harbor and an average of three container ships dock every day at the Conley Terminal in South Boston.

FOX25’s Blair Miller jumped on board with Richard Stover, one of the Boston-based harbor pilots that directs the ships safely in and out of the harbor.

The shipping channel is about 40-feet deep right now, which means there isn’t any room for error.

“This ship is drawing something like 35 feet and some change. It’s still low tide right now, so we’ll only have about five feet under the ship,” Stover explained about the vessel. “That’s sometimes more than we allow. We need a deeper channel. And then the bigger ships can come in.”

As it is, half the cargo that ends up in New England goes through the port of New York City — not Boston.

If the dredging doesn’t happen soon enough, even some of the boats that come to Boston could choose to go to ports that are setup for bigger ships.

“There’s just no economic incentive for shipping companies to send their ships here to Boston anymore if they have to keep sending smaller ships,” Stover said.

So what’s holding up the plan to dredge the harbor?

“We certainly would’ve loved to have started the deepening of the harbor earlier,” port director Lisa Wieland said. She says the federal government has approved the money to pay for it, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

It will cost about $350 million to deepen the harbor. Massport and the Commonwealth have already committed $130 million of that — leaving the rest to Washington.

“We’re hopeful that the federal money will come in in the next year or two,” Wieland said. “Not only will more of these containers mean more business, but it will also save consumers money.”

The impact to Boston would be all about cost, says Wieland.

“Ultimately, it is cheaper to bring cargo in via water instead of dumping it at another port and truck it here,” she told FOX25. “The Army Corps of Engineers estimates we will double the amount of containers coming into this terminal.”

Eventually it would making Boston more of a port city than it already is and keep the big ships from sailing off into the sunset.