Port of Lake Charles officials released the final report in a series of three studies analyzing the current and future increase in Calcasieu Ship Channel vessel traffic.
Traffic in the channel is expected to grow significantly over the next ten years due to the expanded operations of existing terminals and the construction of various proposed facilities. Deep-draft ship traffic is forecasted to double over the next ten years, growing from 1,022 to over 2,183 vessels in 2023. The twenty-year horizon of the study projects 2,249 deep-draft vessels annually in 2033.The final report found the channel, with its existing infrastructure and operations, has the capacity to handle the forecasted traffic increase.The port’s leadership commissioned the study, which used a detailed simulation model, to assess the need for changes to the channel’s operation. “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,” said Bill Rase, executive director for the port. “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 port is currently the thirteenth largest port in the country based on tonnage handled. It is anticipated that tonnage through the new facilities planned for the channel will place the Port of Lake Charles in the top ten ports in the nation.Other conclusions reached by the traffic study related to seasonal impacts, pilots needed and tug requirements. The study determined wait times were highly seasonal, which was attributed to wind and visibility delays. The channel will require additional pilots to handle the forecasted traffic. However, the study determined the current number of channel tugs is likely sufficient for the channel, assuming the LNG terminals provide their own dedicated tugs.New capital investments totaling over $80 billion have been announced for the Southwest Louisiana region within the past two years, making the area the “biggest story in economic development in America today,” according to Site Selection Magazine.
Rase asserted, “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 are completely dependent upon the ship channel’s efficient operation, as well as consistent dredging funds from the U.S. Congress that allows the Corps of Engineers to maintain the Calcasieu Ship Channel at authorized dimensions.”