Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Full Steam Ahead on Ship Work Boaters Warned to Be Cautious around Oversized Vessel

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Full Steam Ahead on Ship Work Boaters Warned to Be Cautious around Oversized Vessel

Article excerpt

This week's arrival of a large Bahamian flag commercial vessel

in Jacksonville signals the start of a lucrative project for

Atlantic Dry Dock Corp.

But it also means boaters passing by the company's shipyard

will need to show extra caution while traversing the tricky

currents created where the St. Johns River meets the Intracoastal

Waterway.

The $76 million project, which is the biggest single-ship

contract in the Jacksonville firm's history, will boost the

local economy, said Tom Jones, a company official.

The conversion of the 754-foot, roll-on, roll-off cargo ship

for use by the Marines Corps will create 300 new jobs and take 1

1/2 years, he said.

But the ship's presence -- it arrived Sunday -- will make

navigating the busy intersection of the river and the

Intracoastal Waterway more difficult.

Atlantic's Heckscher Drive shipyard is located near the

intersection.

Steps have been taken to reduce the likelihood of any accident

involving the tens of thousands of commercial and recreational

vessels that pass through the intersection, a Coast Guard

official said yesterday.

To accommodate the ship, Atlantic built a new 660-foot pier in

the St. Johns River, built a new bulkhead and dredged the

channel alongside the pier, Jones said.

This improvement to infrastructure cost $15 million and

included a $2 million grant from the state to help cover the

cost of the dredging, he said.

When plans for the pier's construction surfaced last year,

concerns were raised by the St. Johns Bar Pilot Association, the

11-member group that steers huge oceangoing vessels down the

river.

The confluence of the river and the Intracoastal Waterway

produces tricky currents that make maneuvering the area

difficult.

In April, a group of port users and regulatory agencies

including the river pilots, barge operators, the Army Corps of

Engineers and the Coast Guard conducted a two day risk analysis

of the pier.

The team concluded that although this section of the river was

among the areas of highest risk for those navigating the

waterway, the dangers associated with the pier and the ship

could be managed. …

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