NEW ORLEANS — Low water levels in the upper reaches of the Mississippi River are not affecting operations within the Port of New Orleans, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has maintained the Congressionally-authorized 45-foot deep channel on the Lower Mississippi River from Baton Rouge, La., to the mouth of the River.
“We do not anticipate any interruptions to deep-draft shipping or cruise operations within the Port of New Orleans as a result of the low River stages,” said Gary LaGrange, Port President and CEO. “All of the Port’s berths are at 100 percent of their authorized depths and no restrictions on the Lower Mississippi River are anticipated.”
Liquid and dry bulk commodities, which rely on barge transportation, are the primary cargoes concerned with low River levels in the Midwest. These commodities include agricultural products, such as grain and corn, and other bulk commodities, such as chemicals, petroleum and coal. These products are generally shipped in bulk by barge, as River barge transportation is the most economical. These commodities are shipped to the Lower Mississippi River and loaded onto oceangoing bulk vessels at deep-draft terminals. These ocean going vessels can be loaded to full capacity. However, if draft restrictions are placed on inland barge traffic in the Midwest, barge transit would become more costly for growers, producers and manufacturers.
The majority of the private grain elevators, petroleum refineries and coal terminals are located upriver and downriver from the Port of New Orleans’ jurisdiction. The Port is a general cargo port handling cargoes, such as containers, steel, palletized natural rubber, forest products, rolled paper and bundled copper and aluminum. These cargoes arrive and depart the Port’s terminals primarily by rail and truck, thus there is minimal impact within the Port of New Orleans.
The primary area of concern is stretches of the River between St. Louis, Mo., and Cairo, Ill., where the Corps of Engineers continues to apply all available resources to maintain a navigable nine-foot deep channel for barge traffic. Additionally, Corps contractors are removing rock obstructions from the channel – an estimated 890 cubic yards of limestone from River bottoms – to reduce any risk to vessels during periods of low water. Dredging has also been ongoing since early July to preserve the channel in the Midwest, along with continued channel surveys and patrols to ensure safe navigation throughout the River system.
“We are working closely with the Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure that all deep-draft facilities along the Lower Mississippi River remain at authorized depths of at least 45 feet and remain open for business for our customers, stakeholders and the shipping community,” LaGrange said.