Back-to-Back Hurricanes Leave Shoaling on Calcasieu Waterway

Calcasieu River Ship Channel, 2017 (file image courtesy Rep. Clay Higgins)

Published Oct 13, 2020 9:58 PM by The Maritime Executive

When Hurricane Laura arrived in western Louisiana in August, high winds damaged the Port of Lake Charles, and surging currents created shoaling on the Calcasieu Waterway. The busy channel serves both the Port of Lake Charles and the Cameron LNG export terminal, located on the waterway about 19 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. 

After shoaling caused by Laura, these facilities faced draft restrictions and limited access. As late as September 17, vessels drawing more than 36 feet were not permitted to proceed up the ship channel to Lake Charles. Most restrictions were lifted for deep-draft ships by October 6 - the same day that Hurricane Delta entered the Gulf of Mexico and headed towards the Louisiana coast. 

Hurricane Delta came ashore near Creole, Louisiana and passed to the east of Cameron and Lake Charles. It caused less wind damage than Laura, but the Calcasieu Waterway will require another round of dredging, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. The Coast Guard Captain of the Port reopened the waterway on Monday, but only for vessels drawing less than 25 feet. 

The Corps of Engineers told Reuters Tuesday that its survey boats have spotted three areas with obstructions that will have to be removed. The time required to regain full depth is not yet known, but the agency says that the shoaling appears to be limited to the channel bar. 

This has implications for Cameron LNG, which just shipped its first cargo since Hurricane Laura on October 5. The facility sustained no damage during Hurricane Delta and is restarting liquefaction operations, but access to its marine terminal is limited due to the shoaling on the channel. "We have resumed work to execute our plans towards achieving full production. Additionally, we are working closely with the Port of Lake Charles to assess the condition of the Calcasieu Ship Channel to confirm accessibility to our jetties," Cameron LNG said in a statement.