Ship traffic backed up at the mouth of the Mississippi due to high water

Anchorage closures are slowing river traffic

Ship traffic backed up at the mouth of the Mississippi

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Fog prevented about 40 ships from moving into the Mississippi River Monday (March 24), but even without the fog, high water is making it more difficult to get those ships upriver, according to the Crescent City River Pilots Association.

The river is always dangerous to navigate, but according to the association’s president - E. Michael Bopp - the high waters are making the currents even fiercer.

“The velocity is so strong. Mother Nature is hard to fight," Bopp said.

Last week FOX 8 talked with Bopp about the numerous accidents on the southern Mississippi ever since river levels in New Orleans pushed above 15 feet in January.

“Mother Nature is relentless, unforgiving. She will bring you down quick,” Bopp said.

Three tugs went down in less than two weeks, with one person losing his life.

The swift water puts some areas that are usually safe for ships to settle out of commission.

“We have a safe navigation committee, and we have since recommended that we do not utilize this anchorage right now because there have been so many problems with anchors dragging and going into the barge lane, and picking up other anchors that are on the bottom," Bopp said, referring to the location near Arabi where crewmen died in an accident during last year’s high water.

The Port of New Orleans confirmed that at least two anchorage locations are completely closed, causing an area that can usually support three ships to hold only one.

The port said that has contributed to backups at the mouth of the river, where ships are waiting to enter from the Gulf of Mexico.

The website Shiptraffic.net showed dozens of ships just offshore on Monday, but the Crescent City Pilots Association, whose members are responsible for getting the ships safely to Arabi, said last week that there were more than 100 vessels waiting.

“Louisiana and the Mississippi River is probably the largest port complex in the Western hemisphere. We move more cargo than anywhere on the globe,” Bopp said.

And in the shipping industry, the saying ‘time is money’ rings true.

“We probably have over 150 ships that are in the river and trying to get in the river, so when you stop the chain of transportation it’s a really big deal. It’s over $350 million a day,” he said.

All at the mercy of the mighty Mississippi.

The Coast Guard is responsible for managing anchorage on the Mississippi River. Long-term forecasts suggest that water levels at New Orleans should come down below 15 feet around April 11.

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