Dynamic Solutions

Navigation Channel Design


This course provides a basic understanding of navigation channel design principles and practices. How width, depth, and alignment are related to vessel size, traffic, and environmental conditions.

Navigation channels are the arteries through which economic prosperity flows, providing access to deep draft ships in coastal channels and shallow draft tows in inland waterways. In the U.S. 90 percent of import/export trade travels by ship and 26,000 miles of navigation channels serve thousands of ports and terminals from New York to Mobile to Seattle and as far inland as Lewiston, Idaho, St. Paul, Minnesota, and Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

Channel design is both art and science, a balance among safety, economics, and sustainability requirements. Channels must be wide and deep enough to safely accommodate vessel traffic, yet not so large as to require excessive dredging or habitat modification.

Engineers plan, design, and construct new navigation channels and channel enlargements to accommodate larger vessels and modify channels to improve safety and sustainability. Since water levels and continuous access are a critical requirements for vessel traffic, all water resources projects in navigable waterways must account for their effect on, and by, navigation projects.


Participants will:

  • Learn the standard terminology for navigation channels.
  • Understand how the principles of navigation projects planning, design, operation, and maintenance are related to engineering ethics.
  • Obtain rules of thumb for channel width, depth, and curvature and training structures.
  • Learn how advanced channel design uses simulators to define minimum channel dimensions.


This course will be useful to those who work in the private sector, early career engineers in the Corps of Engineers and other government agencies involved with navigation, and also to those who advise these organizations, such as attorneys. The discussion is technical, involving simple equations. Non-engineers can follow the material, particularly if they have completed the Introduction to Navigation Engineering Course.


  • Understand how basics of navigation channel design and affects your job.
  • Use knowledge of the roles of the Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard, and NOAA to make your organization’s efforts most effective.
  • See waterway morphology and training structures affect navigability and agency choices.
  • Identify opportunities for navigation-related services.
  • Earn PDH.



  1. Overview of Navigation engineering
  2. Ethics-Based Engineering Principles
  3. Waterborne Vessels and Traffic
  4. Channels – Shallow Draft
  5. Channels – Deep Draft
  6. Using Waterway Morphology
  7. Channel Simulations for Design and Operation
  8. Economic and Environmental Sustainability

LENGTH: 16 hours


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