Port of Lake Charles Releases its Second Report on Vessel Traffic

by | Wednesday, September 10, 2014 |

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.

Preparing for growth

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.”

Study’s findings

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 following categories:

Large LNG

Small LNG

Deep Draft



The study also discussed other conclusions, including:

Seasonal Impacts – Wait times are highly seasonal due to wind and visibility delays.

Pilots Needed – The channel will require more pilots than the current 17 employed to accommodate the increase in traffic.

Tug Requirements – Current number of channel tugs will probably be sufficient for the channel if LNG terminals provide their own.

The Calcasieu Channel

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.

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