The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has marked the completion of the first two phases of the Mississippi River Ship Channel deepening.
The channel currently provides a maximum draft for vessels calling at the Port of New Orleans (NOLA) at 50 feet.
The ship channel has been mechanically deepened for approximately the first 200 miles of the channel, according to a recent release from the Port NOLA authority.
The authority added that expansion of the deeper draft above the Huey P. Long Bridge from 49 feet to 50 feet will require additional improvements, although the dredging has been completed to mile 175 Above Head of Passes (AHP) along with the additional 20 miles of Southwest Pass (195 miles total).
“The deepening of the Mississippi River Ship Channel is a transformational project that will bolster our economy, create and sustain jobs, and solidify Louisiana’s status as a global anchor for trade,” said Governor John Bel Edwards.
“The economic growth from this project is expected to create several thousand new jobs, which comes on the heels of Louisiana reaching the lowest unemployment rate in state history.
“It’s an exciting time for our state, and I look forward to facilitating even more growth thanks to the partnerships we have forged.”
Phase 1 of the expansion project began on 11 September 2020.
The overall costs for the project were estimated at $250 million. The State of Louisiana committed $81 million to match the non-federal sponsor cost-share.
“Bigger ships carrying more cargo means more jobs and economic opportunity for Louisiana and the Nation,” said US Senator Bill Cassidy.
“This project is a top priority for Louisiana’s entire federal delegation.”
READ: Louisiana commits near-$100 million to Port NOLA to aid expansion projects
The M/V CAPRI – loaded with a record 134,706 metric tons of coal – was the first vessel to transit on the Ship Channel with a draft of 50 feet upon departure on 5 August.
“As we fight to overcome inflation and supply chain bottlenecks, our ports are more important than ever,” said US Representative Troy Carter.
“Here in Louisiana, the Mississippi connects us all – economically, culturally, and physically. It’s important that we work together and speak with one voice as a region on behalf of our shared goals.
“That’s why this project to deepen the channel to increase shipping opportunities is so exciting – we are opening a new chapter to help energise our economy to new heights and continue to help lower costs for Americans.”
The Mississippi River Ship Channel is home to four of the US top 15 ports by annual tonnage (Port of Greater Baton Rouge, Port of South Louisiana, Port of New Orleans and the Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District).
According to USACE, the Ship Channel moves more than 500 million tons of cargo annually, including 60 per cent of the nation’s grain and 20 per cent of the nation’s energy.