Inland Ports: Diverse Yet Dependent On The Same Things
By Cindy Cutrera
Chairman of Inland Rivers, Ports & Terminals
Manager of Economic Development,
Morgan City Harbor & Terminal District
“If you’ve seen one port, you’ve seen one port.”
I’m not sure who first made this statement, but many of us in the port industry have heard it more than once. We certainly can’t argue its accuracy. One thing I have learned from serving on the board of the Inland Rivers, Ports & Terminals (IRPT) for the past several years is that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for our ports and terminals. Some of us build things, some of us grow things, and some of us provide multi-modal solutions to get these products to their destinations. We all play an important role, no matter the size of our footprint.
However, we can all agree that we can benefit from funding for infrastructure improvements or operations and maintenance of our waterways, from legislation that creates a level playing field for all our ports and terminals and from educational programs, especially for security and resilience.
During my time with IRPT, the organization has been a strong advocate for the nation’s inland waterway users. IRPT supported legislation that passed in 2021 to provide funding opportunities for inland and small coastal ports and terminals. With COVID restrictions lifting, an IRPT Legislative Caucus will be scheduling visits on the Hill soon to advocate for an Inland River Transportation Caucus within the U.S. Congress. IRPT also encourages its transload facility members to take advantage of free security risk assessments offered through the Department of Homeland Security.
Last spring, Port of Morgan City staff hosted a group of port professionals from across the United States for the Inland Maritime Port Executives certification course, led by Capt. Jeffrey Monroe, director of education and training for the International Association of Maritime and Port Executives (IAMPE). IAMPE is the premier professional development program for brown-water port executives. The IAMPE program has been developed in conjunction with IRPT and their education committee. Aimee Andres, executive director of IRPT, serves on the IAMPE advisory board.
Port Of Morgan City
The Port of Morgan City, strategically located at the intersection of the Atchafalaya River and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in south central Louisiana, is ready to take advantage of funding programs that will help us continue to improve and enhance our multimodal capabilities. Repairs and enhancements to the on-site spurs at the port terminal facility were completed in early 2020. Two waterfront expansion projects are planned that will provide 1,900 feet of finished waterfront access and over 30 acres of loading/offloading and lay down area capacity. These projects were partially funded through the Louisiana Department of Transportation’s Port Priority Program.
The Atchafalaya River and Bayous Boeuf, Black and Chene project is a 20-foot-deep by 400-foot-wide federally authorized channel that provides a waterway route from the Port of Morgan City to the Gulf of Mexico for industries that support our national defense and national economy. That includes the oil and gas industry, of course, but it also includes shipbuilding and renewable energy, as well.
About 30 percent of the Mississippi River’s flow is diverted through the Atchafalaya River, along with the Red and Ouachita rivers. That creates the need for operations and maintenance dredging to keep waterway traffic flowing through the Port of Morgan City. From late 2021 into early 2022, a total of 8.3 million cubic yards of material was removed from the river. One hundred percent of that material was beneficially used to create at least 520 acres of new land. At one point, four dredges were working in the river—something never before experienced in our area.
One of the dredges was the Arulaq, a specially built dredge operated by Brice Civil Constructors. The Arulaq has been managing fluff, a fluid mud, in the Atchafalaya Bar Channel since December 2019. Brice’s efforts have proven successful and will alleviate the fluff problem, while maintaining 20 feet of available draft in the Atchafalaya Bar Channel 365 days a year.
The Port of Morgan City was awarded $16.3 million in the president’s FY22 Budget, an additional $33.1 million through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and an announced $10.1 million from the president’s FY23 Budget. We are currently waiting on FY22 Work Plan award announcements. Additional requested Work Plan funding will ensure that the entire channel is maintained at its authorized depth and width. With proper channel maintenance, along with port expansion plans and a local and regional workforce with transferrable skills, the Port of Morgan City is poised to support current industry as well as clean energy projects of the future.
If you’ve seen the Port of Morgan City, then “you’ve seen one port.” But the Port of Morgan City is just like every other inland port in that we all depend on infrastructure funding, legislative support and education programs to help build and maintain our capabilities and workforce for the present and the future.
If you would like to learn more about the Port of Morgan City, contact Raymond M. Wade, executive director, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Cindy Cutrera, economic development manager, at email@example.com. For more information on IRPT, contact Aimee Andres, executive director, at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on educational opportunities through IAMPE, contact David Arnold, executive director, at email@example.com, or Capt. Jeffrey Monroe, director of education, at Jeffrey.firstname.lastname@example.org.