A blade for use with wind-powered turbines is shipped from the Port of Lake Charles.

Ricky Self has endured a career’s worth of difficulty in his first two months as director of the Port of Lake Charles. Along with the health and economic challenges brought on by COVID-19, he is now facing tens of millions of dollars in damages caused by Hurricane Laura.
“It was unbelievable,” Self said of seeing the Category 4 storm’s destruction, hours after it made landfall Aug. 27. “It’s pretty catastrophic.”
Getting the port fully recovered will be a lengthy process, Self said. Still, he’s encouraged by the progress, nearly three weeks after Laura ravaged Southwest Louisiana’s coastline.
“It’s rough, but let me tell you, we just have a great team,” he said. “I feel very blessed to have those guys alongside as we make decisions moving forward.”
Replacing the two ship loaders and two ship unloaders at Bulk Terminal 1 is expected to cost upwards of $50 million, Self said. He’s doubtful they can be repaired.
“One of the ship loaders is in the (Calcasieu) River,” he said. “The other three are a mangled mess. They collided with each other during the storm.”
Self said the port has insurance to cover those damages and is seeking assistance from FEMA and the state. 
Because replacing the custom-made ship loaders and unloaders at Bulk Terminal 1 will take time, port officials will make a decision sometime this week on how to handle cargo at Bulk Terminal 1 over the short term.
“We’re waiting on reports from insurance adjusters because they’re not done yet,” he said. “Depending on what they determine, that will impact what we do long term at Bulk Terminal 1. We’re working on several solutions to be able to load and unload cargo. Our customers are calling every day, asking when it’s going to start up.”
The two ship loaders at City Docks that deal with bagged cargo appear to be repairable, Self said.

Immediate needs

Right after Laura’s landfall, Self said the first goal was to get the port operational again. Debris was cleared from the water at berths, City Docks and all terminals. Work was also done to ensure safe access at facilities for trucks and rail.
Roofs at buildings and transit sheds suffered varying damages. Entire roofs were peeled back at some buildings, while others had skylights ripped off. Weather-sensitive cargo, such as alumina trihydrate for Southern Ionics, and rubber for Firestone, is safe from additional rainfall, Self said.
More than 30 vessels, including 15 shrimp boats, requested safe harbor ahead of Laura’s arrival. Seven sank at City Docks, while the storm broke up others.
Self said that crews have spent the last several days fixing vessels that only took in water, by getting into the surface and pumping out water so they can float.

Ship Channel

The Calcasieu Ship Channel’s normal 40-foot depth changed to 36 feet because of sediment disrupted by Hurricane Laura.
“If a vessel typically would traverse the channel at 40 feet, it can’t go in or out of the channel, or either has to come in with less cargo,” he said. “That’s costly to our customers.”
Self said it’s going to take weeks before the Ship Channel’s depth will reach 40 feet.
“It’s going to take some dredging,” he said.


Windmill turbines were being loaded out within the week of Laura’s landfall, Self said. Tower components for wind turbines were discharged for a vessel last week.
“They’re fully operational,” he said. “They come in by vessel and go out by truck or rail.”
Pelorus Terminal, a customer at City Docks for nearly a year, recently had sodium hydrosulfide liquid loaded onto a vessel. Self said it was one of Pelorus’ largest vessels, in terms of tonnage.
“They’re 100 percent (operational) even with restricted draft (at the ship channel),” Self said.
Self said crews are unloading petroleum coke at Bulk Terminal 1 using ships' gear, instead of the badly-damaged unloaders.
The port is ready to handle bagged rice from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Self said. He said a USDA ship is scheduled to come to the port in October.
Self thanked port board commissioners, along with the legislative delegation for working with port officials in the recovery from Laura.
“They’ve been a tremendous amount of support,” he said.

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