For the first time Wednesday, the Celebrity Silhouette was berthed along the northern side of the pier at the Austin “Babe” Monsanto Marine Terminal on St. Thomas, thanks to dredging work increasing the depth to allow bigger vessels.
“This was never possible in the past because Solstice-class vessels could not safely berth along the north pier," Port Authority Executive Director Carlton Dowe said in a statement from VIPA.
The completion of the dredging in East Gregorie channel to a depth of 10 meters or 32.8 feet allows for both Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, which is an Oasis-class vessel, and the Celebrity Silhouette to bring their passengers to Crown Bay, he said.
"This is great news for our merchants, for our economy, and a significant achievement for the Port Authority,” Dowe said. The Silhouette and the Allure of the Seas have the combined capacity to bring more than 13,000 visitors to St. Thomas – a first for Crown Bay Center, Dowe added.
The dredging has been in the works for several years. Cruise lines asked for the dredging, which will allow more and larger vessels to dock. In 2012, cruise operators threatened to pull some ships in 2014 if the work was not completed by then. In 2014 the Legislature approved a Coastal Zone Management permit for the work, allowing VIPA to dredge the East Gregorie channel in Crown Bay and a section of the area along the northern portion of the pier at the Austin "Babe" Monsanto Marine Terminal.
Orion Marine Construction was hired to perform the dredging.
The dredging was funded by the Port Authority through bonds issued in 2014, secured by marine revenues, to improve navigational conditions and accommodate the largest cruise ships in the world.