Port of South Louisiana sees growth in 2022 despite low water on the Mississippi

The Port of South Louisiana reports an 8% increase in tonnage for the first three quarters of 2022 despite low water problems on the Mississippi that have slowed some tug and barge traffic. Micah Cormier, Director of Communications, Port of South Louisiana, told AJOT that agricultural exports increased in 2022 for the first three quarters and cited the following:

Soybeans-exports are up 36% in 2022 (25.1 million tons vs 18.4 million tons in 2021)

Wheat-exports are up 34% (3 million tons vs 2.2 million tons in 2021)

Animal feed-exports are up 40% (7.3 million tons vs 5.2 million tons in 2021)

For the first three quarters of 2022, Cormier says that overall tonnage at the Port is up 8% at 181.8 million tons vs 167.8 million tons in 2021.

Cormier said: “Vessel calls so far in 2022 are up 5% over 2021 and barge calls are up 2%.”

Cormier said the Port was “cautiously optimistic” about its prospects for the rest of 2022 and was closely monitoring the low water situation that was primarily impacting tug and barge traffic along the upper Mississippi River.

Tug and barge operators speaking at the Workboat Show in New Orleans on November 30th through December 1st said that low water on the Mississippi had slowed some tug and barge traffic and that barges could not be fully loaded due to shallow river drafts.

Austin Golding, President and CEO, Golding Barge Line, a tank barge transporter, told a Workboat audience that tug-and-barge operators were able to deploy more barges loading at shallow drafts to meet the shallow draft restrictions. However, tug and barge companies would be challenged to make long term investments due to financial constraints if the low water problem persisted.

New rainstorms have relieved the worst of the low water problems along the Mississippi.

However, in October the declining water level on the Mississippi river prompted the Port of Greater Baton Rouge to “reduce the maximum draft recommendation to 41 feet based on low water levels based on the Port’s responsibility.”

The low water problems on the Mississippi were due to low rainfalls and drought conditions that also impacted the Rhine River Delta and the Yangtze River Delta in China.

The low water problem prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin constructing an underwater sill across the bed of the Mississippi channel to prevent further upriver progression of saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico caused by low rainfall conditions that existed in October.

Plaquemine Parish, South of New Orleans, issued a drinking water advisory on October 10th, stating that its freshwater systems were experiencing higher levels of sodium and chloride as a result of saltwater moving up the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico.

These drought conditions reflect a new and potentially ominous phase of the global warming problem if they become chronic problems for the Mississippi Delta and other river and delta regions around the world.

Stas Margaronis
Stas Margaronis


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