An important milestone for the Mississippi River Ship Channel Deepening to 50 Feet was achieved earlier today (December 20, 2021) as the Crescent River Port Pilots Association (CRPPA) increased their maximum draft recommendation to 48 feet (freshwater).  The Associated Branch Pilots of the Port of New Orleans (Bar Pilots) raised their maximum draft recommendation to 49 feet on December 17, 2021.  Therefore, the controlling depth for over on 150 miles of the Ship Channel is now set to 48 feet.  The previous maximum drafts of 47 feet were based on channel surveys and adequate channel maintenance (dredging) by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).  The cooridnated increase to 48 feet is the first step toward the increased economic benefits that will be generated by the ability to move additional cargo on vessels calling the Mississippi River Ship Channel. 

The newly established controlling maximum freshwater draft of 48 feet, is a key victory to the nationally significant project to mechanically deepen the Mississippi River Ship Channel.  The targeted goal of this project is to deepen the MRSC to 50 feet from Mile 233.8 Above Head of Passes {AHP] (Baton Rouge) to Mile 22 Below Head of Passes [BHP] (Southwest Pass Jetties).  The New Orleans – Baton Rouge Steamship Pilots Association (NOBRA) is expected to confirm a maximum draft of 48 feet up to Mile 150 Above Head of Passes (Armant Landing) until additional survey requests can be properly vetted.  NOBRA’s confirmation would open up the first 172 miles of the Ship Channel to a coordinated maximum draft of 48 feet.  

The tentative plan for increasing vessel drafts always included incrementally increasing the draft of 47 feet in stages until reaching 50 feet.  The CRPPA through officially increasing the draft above 47 feet, has now opened the Ship Channel to deeper drafts above the long-established operational draft of 47 feet.