Dozens of groundings and sinkings block Louisiana waterways

The impact of Ida on the marine sector was spreading beyond offshore energy as it became clear that the US Coast Guard was dealing with scores of groundings and sinkings caused by the hurricane on Louisiana’s inland waterways.

The USCG is working with the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) as the three fight to re-open waterways hit by the storm around Bayou Lafourche, Houma Navigation Canal and portions of the Intracoastal Waterway.

By last Thursday September 9th the USCG had reported 25 obstructions. These comprised mainly fishing vessels, crew vessels, and offshore supply vessels. There were 30 submerged targets identified in the Houma Navigation Canal, of which 15 had been cleared or removed.

As of September 9th the USCG had assessed 1,539 reports of pollution, including:

  • 694 reports that have been closed or transferred to appropriate jurisdictions,
  • 197 reports where the reports were unverified as there was no remaining evidence of pollution on-site,
  • 564 reports where the USCG was actively supervising the mitigation efforts that were being carried out by responsible parties,
  • 84 reports that were under investigation by the Coast Guard.

Meanwhile the USCG captain-of-the-port, New Orleans, Captain Will Watson, lifted daylight transit only restrictions for deep-draft vessels operating south of Mile 203 on the Lower Mississippi River. The change was announced in a Marine Safety Information Bulletin issued on September 8th.

Other restrictions remained in place:

  • Vessel movement and cargo operations are authorized within the Port of New Orleans with the following restrictions:
  • Vessels operating on the Lower Mississippi River from mile marker 108 to 167.5 need to maintain the slowest safe speed in the vicinity of ongoing vessel salvage operations, and tow sizes shall be limited to 36 barges southbound and 42 barges northbound respectively, with six wide being the maximum allowed.
  • Vessels operating in this zone are recommended to sail as close to the centerline of the channel as possible. Vessel operators are reminded there may be sunken or partially sunken obstructions near the right or left descending banks and should use caution when transiting these areas.
  • The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, from mile marker 18 to 20 west of Harvey Locks, remains closed due to shoaling.
  • Mariners are advised to exercise caution while transiting the Lower Mississippi River from mile marker 56 to 58 due to a large field of partially sunken barges along the right descending bank.