Freight News, Sea

Mississippi River Ship Channel Deepening Begins

[ September 18, 2020   //   ]

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) officially kicked off the historic deepening of the Mississippi River Ship Channel to 50 feet on Sept. 11, 2020, as Weeks Marine’s cutterhead dredge CAPTAIN FRANK started dredging 5 miles above the Head of Passes.

The USACE awarded this first contract for the Ship Channel deepening to Weeks Marine on Sept. 3, 2020, and the CAPTAIN FRANK started the historic deepening tonight. The USACE awarded the second cutterhead dredge contract to Manson Construction on Sept. 8, 2020. Manson’s cutterhead, the ROBERT M. WHITE, is expected to begin deepening in late September. Three dredges – two cutterheads and one hopper dredge – will be utilized to deepen the channel in the first phase of the project.

Colonel Stephen Murphy, Commander of the USACE New Orleans District, explained that by deepening the Mississippi River Ship Channel even by just five feet (to 50-ft) the national economy will see benefits of approximately $127 million annually. “With a benefit-to-cost ratio of 7.2-to-1, the project will pay for itself in two years,” he said.

“The Big River Coalition revitalized efforts to deepen the Mississippi River Ship Channel to 50 Feet in August 2012,” said Sean Duffy, Executive Director of the Coalition. “The project will promote the economic advantages of waterborne commerce to shippers by extending the draw area for shipping down this economic superhighway. The deepened channel will offer increased cost savings to shippers and help the US compete in world markets, enhance the system’s water carrying capacity and increase the flood protection of businesses, farms and homes.”

Ports throughout the nation’s interior will benefit from the Ship Channel Deepening. Among them are the Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District along with its partners from Plaquemines Parish to the state of Illinois.

The Executive Director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, Mike Steenhoek, a longtime partner of the Coalition offered the following statement. “Our nation’s inland waterway system – including the Mississippi River Ship Channel – provides an efficient connection between farmers in the Midwest and customers around the world. As a result, any effort to improve the channel must not only be regarded as a Louisiana priority, but also a priority for the Midwestern states that feed into it. The Soy Transportation Coalition sincerely appreciates the leadership of the Big River Coalition in promoting the deepening of the Mississippi River Ship Channel and has been pleased to work in collaboration with them in helping the project become a reality.”

The overall project will provide a draft of 50-feet from the Port of Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico – over 256 miles of the Mississippi River. In addition, the material dredged from the first 30 miles of the project near the mouth of the Mississippi River will restore an estimated 1,462 acres of critical marsh habitat.

Phase 1 of the project will provide a 50-foot channel from the Gulf of Mexico through Southwest Pass to Belmont Crossing and open approximately 175 miles of the ship channel to the deeper draft. Phase 1 encompasses the entire jurisdiction of the Port of New Orleans, St. Bernard Port, Harbor and Terminal District, the Plaquemines Port, Harbor and Terminal District and the majority of the Port of South Louisiana.