Officials at the Port of Lake Charles
recently presented the second of three reports that analyze the current and
future increase in vessel traffic in the Calcasieu Ship Channel.
Traffic in the Calcasieu Channel is
projected to experience tremendous growth over the next decade, due primarily
to the expanded operations of the terminals and the construction of proposed
facilities. In fact, according to the
report, traffic could increase by more than 50 percent over the next five years,
and even double by 2023.
The study was commissioned by Port
leadership, and it utilized a simulation model to assess what changes would be
necessary to accommodate growth and maximize the Calcasieu Channel’s
potential. The final report will
identify changes that will be most productive, and allow the Port to improve
infrastructure to minimize future delays. The major find of the study is that the ship channel can handle the additional
vessels; however, channel widening and dredging are necessary.
Currently, the Port of Lake Charles is
the thirteenth largest in the U.S. But
with the increase in tonnage through the planned new facilities in the channel,
the Port will likely move into the top ten ports nationwide.
Said Bill Rase, the Port’s Executive
Director, “The Calcasieu Ship Channel is vitally important not only to the Port
of Lake Charles and surrounding industries that daily depend on access to it,
but also to the entire country. This
waterway handles nearly 55 million tons of cargo annually and is absolutely
critical to supplying the nation’s energy needs. Keeping the channel operating
smoothly for trade is the port’s top priority.”
The report, which has been ongoing for
the last four months, includes a simulation model, which predicts traffic in
the channel to increase to over 2,000 vessels annually in 2020, up from 1,000
in 2013. Vessels are grouped into the
The study also discussed other
Impacts – Wait times are highly seasonal due to wind and visibility delays.
Needed – The channel will require more pilots than the current 17 employed
to accommodate the increase in traffic.
Requirements – Current number of channel tugs will probably be sufficient
for the channel if LNG terminals provide their own.
Over the last two years, more than $67
billion worth of projected capital investments have been made in Southwest
Louisiana, with half of those investments correlating with the Port of Lake
Charles. The influx of channel use is attributed to expanded operations of current
terminals and the construction of proposed facilities. The major increase,
however, will be vessels carrying liquefied natural gas.
According to Rase, “Most of these
projects are a direct result of the Calcasieu Ship Channel, as well as an
efficient pipeline infrastructure, which will deliver economical natural gas
for refining into finished product for export and domestic use. These projects,
along with 20,000 construction jobs and 14,000 permanent, direct and indirect
jobs, are dependent upon the ship channel’s efficient operation, as well as
consistent funding for dredging.”
Magnolia LNG Vice President of
Development, Ernie Megginson, conveyed, “The Calcasieu Ship Channel connects
Lake Charles to the rest of the world through the Gulf of Mexico. Magnolia LNG
selected the site in Southwest Louisiana to build its 8 million ton per annum
liquefied natural gas export facility because of the unique combination of
location, infrastructure and transportation capabilities offered through the
channel. This waterway is very important to our $3.5 billion project, and
Magnolia appreciates the port leadership’s proactive approach.”
Channing Hayden, Director of Navigation
for the Port, expressed, “We plan to explore changes to channel operations and
infrastructure that will allow the increased number of vessels to move more
freely and reduce wait times for all vessels. Changes in traffic restrictions,
new anchorages and passing lanes are possible considerations at this time.We’re all working with one goal in mind, and
that is to make the channel the safest and most efficient it possibly can be.”
About the Port
of Lake Charles
The Port of Lake Charles is governed by
a board of seven commissioners, and includes 203 square miles in Calcasieu
Parish.The Port operates marine
terminals, two industrial parks, and properties zoned for individual use.