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Southwest Louisiana ,
The Stena Compatriot makes its way southward on the Calcasieu Ship Channel. (American Press Archives)

The Stena Compatriot makes its way southward on the Calcasieu Ship Channel. (American Press Archives)

Port hires Canadian firm to study future of channel traffic

Last Modified: Friday, March 14, 2014 12:12 PM

By Lance Traweek / American Press

Vessel traffic on the Calcasieu Ship Channel may double by 2020, so the Port of Lake Charles has hired a company to compile data about the present and future channel capacity to assess the needs for changes to the channel infrastructure.

On the heels of $62 billion worth of capital investments in Southwest Louisiana, the traffic study was approved in September by the Port Board for a budgeted $275,000.

This week, Canada-based Ausenco Consulting released information at the Harbor Safety Committee meeting outlining its inputs and assumptions for the report, which is expected to be concluded by summer.

“Doubling traffic requires us to do some forward thinking on how to handle this,” said Channing Hayden, director of navigation and security at the port.

A significant aspect of the study is that it involves representatives from all industry channel users.

“We collected data based on best estimates of both current channel users and potential channel users of what their ship traffic is going to look like for each year in the next 20 years, so we have a progression and understand how the buildup will occur,” he said.

The model of the channel created for the study included the existing and proposed terminals, present and forecast traffic levels, different vessel types, rules and restrictions for transits, boarding windows and even weather closures.

“Do we assume a hurricane every year or every five years or do we ignore hurricanes because it’s a special case,” he said.

After results of the present condition of the channel are released, infrastructure changes will be discussed.

“Generally, vessels come in on a first-come, first-served basis, but it may be a problem when a lot of ships are coming in,” he said. “We may have to arrange a convoy, so that there are no traffic jams on the channel. All of these things have to be worked out, and that’s what we’re hoping the traffic study will do.”

Ausenco has built a model for British Gas, which will supply the customers for Trunkline LNG’s proposed expansion into an export facility. BG contributed its model to the port, saving the port about $800,000, Hayden said.

He added that the channel is “ready for the influx of traffic, but some tweaking must be done to make the channel operate as efficiently as possible.”

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