Port of Lake Charles officials released the 2018 Update of the Calcasieu Ship Channel Traffic Study which analyzes 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 more than double by 2025, growing from 1,098 to over 2,342 vessels. The fifteen-year horizon of the study projects 2,607 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.
Both the original and updated Traffic Studies deal with vessels’ wait times and the factors that impact those times. In particular for LNG vessels, the Base Case assumed that LNG vessels would not meet other vessels anywhere in the channel. Case 3 studied the impact on vessel wait times if LNG vessels could meet other vessels on the Outer Bar. Based on the information below, Case 3 is more representative of expected vessel wait times.
As confirmed by the U.S. Coast Guard, 33 CFR 165.805 allows for the establishment of a moving security zone from US territorial waters (essentially 12 nm from the coast) and extending on the Calcasieu Channel and the Calcasieu River around “certain designated vessels” while in transit. The regulation does not specify which vessels will be designated by the Captain of the Port (COTP) to have a moving security zone. It should not be assumed that all LNG carriers will have a moving security zone around them.
The determination to implement a moving security zone around “certain designated vessels” will be made on a case-by-case basis. This allows the COTP the operational freedom of action and authority to make risk assessment-based decisions in order to balance the unique needs and characteristics of the port.
The Lake Charles Pilots confirm that their Standards of Care will apply to LNG vessels meeting other vessels on the Outer Bar if no Security Zone is in place.
“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 twelfth 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 are 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 in industrial projects totaling more than $108 billion have been recently completed, are under way or have been announced in the Southwest Louisiana region.
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.”