Summer 2016 Proceedings
These tugs and barges need places to hold up as they wait
for their turn to lock through.
So if the river can't get any bigger, how do you accommodate
The main problem is that the separate needs for anchorages,
waterfront access, protection of the levee systems, and safe
navigation can be at odds with one another. A landowner
may seek to establish a waterfront facility that may impede
traffic or remove a spot on the river where tow traffic was
previously able to hold up. An anchorage may prohibit or
restrict a landowner from building a waterfront facility. A
difficult turn in the river may require additional naviga-
tional room close to the bank right where a fleeting area is
So how do people come together and put aside competing
demands to ensure a healthy marine transportation system?
Currently, individual entities apply for U.S. Army Corps of
Engineering permits to construct or build something in the
river. Traditionally these projects seek to help the individual
or organization requesting approval, and the request will
impact how the river operates. While it may help the indi-
vidual, it may not help the overall efficiency of the river.
Therefore, it's important to balance the effects of any change
and ensure that the entire marine transportation system is
For example, if someone is seeking to expand dock space
for more deep draft vessels, it's important to assess how
the expansion will impact the navigation of traffic through
the area. In addition, granting such expansion will increase
vessel traffic in the river system, potentially requiring more
anchorage space as well as vessel services such as bunkering
and stores, which also have a footprint on the river.
Various people have discussed increasing the depth of the
Mississippi River to bring larger vessels into port. While
dredging the river would enable deeper vessels to come
in, the fixed width of the river would still limit the total
amount of traffic it could accommodate. Thus, it is critical
that port partners as well as state and federal agencies work
together to manage ports to ensure they grow in a man-
ner that can benefit and be effective for all. If such growth
goes unplanned, it may degrade the ports' overall capability,
leaving vessels to find another place to go.
About the author:
CDR Brian Khey has served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 17 years — 13 of
them as a marine safety professional. CDR Khey currently manages one
of the largest prevention departments in the Coast Guard at Sector New
Bureau of Transportation Statistics, "Tonnage of Top 50 U.S. Water Ports, Ranked
by Total Tons," found at www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publica-
New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by
pisaphotography / Shutterstock.com.