Port of New Orleans Reopens After Katrina With Nine U.S. Ships

The Port of New Orleans, which handles more tonnage than any U.S. port, reopened today after being crippled by Hurricane Katrina.

The port will handle nine government ships bearing relief cargo, six from the military and three from the U.S. Transportation Department, Port of New Orleans spokesman Chris Bonura said in a telephone interview. The Mississippi River has been cleared to handle vessels with 35 feet below the water line. The port doesn't expect to handle commercial cargo for up to two weeks.

Katrina's 140 mile-an-hour winds shut New Orleans and surrounding ports along the Mississippi that handle petroleum, grain, chemicals and other cargo. The river was re-opened to commerce on Sept. 1, three days after Katrina hit, handling vessels with 12 feet of draft, such as river barges.

``There are two issues we face,'' said Bonura. ``One is to get the channel open, and the other is to get the port facilities open. That is what we are working pretty frantically to do now.''

New Orleans, which typically handles ocean-going vessels with 45 feet of draft, is working ships using generator power provided by the Transportation Department's Maritime Administration. A vessel that can house 1,000 people is expected in two days, which could further aid ship-handling capacity by providing lodging for workers who unload relief cargo.