Posted on March 14, 2023
Contractors are roughly halfway through the dredging project that is moving nearly one-million cubic yards of sand and silt from the Wilmington Harbor shipping channel, with the beach-quality sand going onto Bald Head Island’s South Beach.
Marinex’s Savannah is a cutter-head suction dredge with a 7,300-kilowatt power plant. When she’s not at work, locals can see her anchored just off Battery Island near Southport.
The dredge crew has completed the most difficult work areas which are located in the most seaward section of the channel.
The goal is to keep the channel at least 42 feet deep at mean low water to accommodate the larger ships that visit the Port of Wilmington. The port currently receives about eight large container ships each week – five from the Caribbean, two from Asia and one from Europe. The channel also serves Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point, the world’s largest munitions terminal, but ships coming to MOTSU don’t typically have the deep draft required by large shipping container vessels.
Dredging is done every two years, or as needed and funded. Typically, beach-quality sand goes to Bald Head Island every two cycles, with the third cycle offering sand to Caswell Beach and the east end of Oak Island.
Work started on December 19, 2022 and is expected to end on or about April 10. It will put sand on Bald Head Island from Sandpiper Trail to around Killegay Ridge, but will not extend as far as the Shoals Club, which is experiencing severe erosion. Village officials are seeking permission for a separate dredging project in 2025 that would put sand from Jay Bird Shoals and/or Frying Pan Shoals on that section of the beach.