City officials say a mere 15 feet can turn the Port of New York, one of the nation's busiest, into a superport.

And the city is seeking federal approval to dredge the Ambrose Channel into New York Harbor, deepening the harbor entrance from 45 feet to 60 feet. i

Because the size of the harbor makes it difficult for giant oil tankers to unload, the New York metropolitan area pays the highest price for fuel.

Linda W. Seale, commissioner of ports and terminals, says the dredging "would permit the giant tankers to dock directly at unloading sites and also make coal export facilities feasible.

"At present, the larger tankers have to anchor in the outer harbor and lighten their tanks by shifting oil into lighter tankers, which then transport the oil to the storage sites," he said.

"Even then, when the tanker is sufficiently lightened, it must go out to sea to turn around before it can come in to dock and complete its unloading."

She is not optimistic, however, about the chances for quick action on the city's dredging request.

"It takes 15 years now from the time a request is made until the dredging project gets under way," she said.