The Mississippi River is now officially open to ships with a draft of 35 feet. Initially, the river is open for traffic during daylight hours and in one direction at a time.
According to Port president & CEO Gary LaGrange, now that a route has been re-established to the Port of New Orleans and other ports on the lower Mississippi River, the port is bringing together all of the pieces that will allow it to be a major force in the reconstruction of New Orleans.
“The Port of New Orleans’ riverfront terminals survived Hurricane Katrina in fairly decent shape,” said LaGrange. “Although they are damaged, they are still workable once electrical power and manpower becomes available.
“In the next several weeks,” he added, “almost all of the Port of New Orleans will be dedicated to military relief vessels.” He noted that commercial vessels will return in a week or two, once power is restored.
Along with Port CEO LaGrange, executive assistant for port operations Ted Knight and operations manager Paul Zimmermann have been on the scene in an attempt to continue port operations under some very adverse circumstances. They have established a headquarters at the Port’s administrative office building and have been in constant contact with MARAD (The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration) and two of the Port’s terminal operators—P Ports and Ceres Gulf Inc.—to begin cargo operations for humanitarian aid and commercial cargo by the end of the week.
P Ports and Ceres Gulf Inc. have mobilized work crews in Texas who will be available to load and unload ships at the Port of New Orleans when the vessels arrive. MARAD, meanwhile, is following up on the Port of New Orleans’ request for help by providing several ships to temporarily house the 1,000 people who will operate the port, including Port of New Orleans employees and crews working ships at the port. Some of the ships will be outfitted with generators needed to supply the power for port operations.
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