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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, May 18, 2024


The Virgin Islands Port Authority has begun a $1.5 million dredging project in Charlotte Amalie Harbor. The first phase will deepen the ship channel between Hassel Island and Rupert Rock to accommodate the new Eagle class of cruise ships that begin arriving Nov. 1.
The Port Authority awarded the contract to R&R Caribbean. Dale Gregory, Port Authority director of engineering, said Saturday that silt-like clay is being dredged from the channel and the spoils barged to the Crown Bay area where it is being spread out to dry. What, if any, use the mounds of gray spoils will have has not been determined, he said.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines will introduce the first Eagle-class vessel to the Virgin Islands on Nov. 1 when the Explorer of the Seas arrives on St. Thomas. The cruise line said it was mandatory for the depth of the channel to be increased to avoid a mishap when the world's largest cruise ship arrives.
"The project will last over 25 days but we anticipate the first phase to be completed by November 1st to accommodate the Explorer," Gregory said.
Aside from the channel, several other areas in the harbor require dredging, including the ship-turning basin where ships reversing out from the West Indian Co. dock stop before turning and exiting the harbor.
The dredging is being done off a barge anchored off Hassel Island. Work is continuing around the clock toward a Tuesday completion. The contractor has hired several Virgin Islands companies, including barge companies, tug operators, truckers and heavy equipment operators.
Meanwhile, WICO has done its own preparations for the arrival of the Explorer of the Seas. More than 1,300 feet of the dock has been encapsulated and a breasting dolphin and mooring buoy erected. The main WICO dock extension has been widened by 20 feet and a new traffic-flow pattern devised to accommodate the additional passengers and vehicular traffic. The WICO improvement and expansion projects cost a total of $6 million.
The Explorer of the Seas, which is being inaugurated on Oct. 28, is a 142,000-ton vessel capable of hosting more than 5,000 passengers and a crew of almost 2,000. The Explorer will be on its maiden voyage when it arrives on St. Thomas on Nov. 1. It is expected to sail the Eastern Caribbean on a seven-day cruise that begins in Miami.

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