Port of Saint John

The Ocean Mapping Group, along with other collaborators, is currently involved with a research project in the Saint John Harbour. The project’s aim is to learn more about the oceanographic interactions between the Harbour, the Saint John River and the Bay of Fundy. The goal is to explain the erosion and deposition of sediments in the harbour and their impact on dredging activities.

Table of Contents

About the Project

Located on the northern shore of the Bay of Fundy at the mouth of the Saint John River, the Port of Saint John is the largest seaport in the Province of New Brunswick, Canada.  The port is essential to New Brunswick’s petroleum, potash, forestry and aquaculture industries.  In addition, it plays an important role in New Brunswick’s import and export trade and, through increasing cruise business, contributes to tourism.

The Saint John Port Authority manages the port and all shipping services, ferry services and cruise ships.   In keeping with  the Port Authority’s mission, safe access to the shipping berths located in the port are maintained through regular dredging.  As this constitutes a huge financial investment, the Port Authority has an interest in understanding the movement of sediments in the Saint John Harbour.

The Saint John River is roughly 700km long and flows through the Provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec and the State of Maine.  It flows from its source in the Saint John Pond, Maine and discharges into the the Bay of Fundy at the city of Saint John, New Brunswick.  The Saint John River provides approximately 60% of all the fresh water that drains into the the Gulf of Main and carries a seasonably varying load of suspended sediment.  The Bay of Fundy is known for having the highest tides in the world with extreme tidal ranges of up to 16m.  Tides in the Saint John River Estuary are damped by the Reversing Falls and have a range of about 50cm.  The inner harbour is also characterized by a narrow constriction which results in strong currents.  The combination of the above conditions result in a complex hydrodynamic regime that controls the level of sedimentation in the Port of Saint John.

A multi-disciplinary study funded by the Saint John Port Authority and NSERC is underway at the University of New Brunswick and the Institut national de recherce scientifique to better understand the sedimentation, circulation and ecology of the Saint John Harbour.  The study has six objectives

  1. Develop and verify a numerical model of the harbour currents, with use of Acoustic Doppler Current Profile (ADCP) data collected in the field;
  2. Determine the role of offshore resuspension and density current intrusions on estuarine circulation through observation and modeling;
  3. Develop a model of sediment deposition using a statistical analysis of seasonal river discharge and sediment concentrations/loads with hydroclimatic information and with dredging records;
  4. Investigate the sediment distribution and transport mechanisms;
  5. Determine actual and potential impacts of the present harbour management program on resident and transient fish, epibenthic macro invertebrates, and benthic invertebrates;
  6. Integrate all information to identify the critical factors in a predictive model and field-validate the model using actual deposition and erosion sediment volumes.


  • Church, I., J.E. Hughes Clarke, S. Haigh, 2016, The integration of a high-resolution baroclinic hydrodynamic model with multibeam echosounder data reduction: Examining depth uncertainty and model skill assessment2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting, poster presentation, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.
  • Ian Church, John E. Hughes Clarke, Susan Haigh, Reenu Toodesh, 2012, Modelling the estuarine circulation of the Port of Saint John: Visualizing complex sound speed distribution. , Proceedings of the Canadian Hydrographic Conference, Niagara Falls 2012