Barge data to help fund dredging at Morgan City
MORGAN CITY, La. -- The Port of Morgan City is still working to get an accurate number for the amount of tonnage that passes through each loading facility within the port’s district so the port can have a better chance of receiving funding for dredging work in the area’s waterways, said Cindy Cutrera, economic development manager for the Port of Morgan City.
As a moderate use port, the Port of Morgan City is close to other ports in terms of total tonnage loaded and unloaded through each facility within its district, Cutrera said. Therefore, receiving funding for dredging work is highly competitive, she said.
“We’re so very close together. That’s why it’s so critical to be able to pick up as much of the information as we can,” Cutrera said.
The port commission discussed the port’s data collection efforts and the implications it could have at its April 8 meeting.
The Navigation Data Center, part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is responsible for tracking tonnage and getting companies to turn in vessel-operated reports, Cutrera said. “Some barge companies, who have the larger barge companies, they are supposed to be responsible for reporting what’s going on with their barges. They don’t all do it,” she said.
Cutrera said the port needs help from the loading facilities in the port’s district in order for the port to help the waterway users.
The port’s district line goes to the Berwick boat landing and across Lake Palourde to the St. Martin Parish boundary, she said. The district line also follows the St. Mary Parish line part of the way but excludes parts of Patterson and anything west of Wax Lake Outlet, she said.
There are about 150 businesses that use the waterways within the port’s district, she said.
The Port of Morgan City, which was ranked No. 119 out of 350 ports in the country in 2011 by the Waterborne Commerce division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is trying to get back in the top 100 ports in nation.
The port was ranked No. 109 in 2010 and No. 98 in 2009. Getting back to being a top 100 port would give the port more recognition from the Office of Management and Budget, which is the entity responsible for allocating money to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, she said.
“If we’re listed there, it gives us a better chance of getting more money for dredging,” Cutrera said. The Atchafalaya Bar Channel is authorized to be dredged to a certain depth, but that does not mean the dredging will be funded, she said.
The corps wants to know which barge went to a certain facility and had goods loaded and offloaded to be able to give the port credit for the barge’s tonnage, she said. Most of the supply vessels turn in reports with the tonnage so they get credit for their tonnage, she said. “The issue becomes all of the stuff that comes in by barge, which most of it does,” Cutrera said.
“Any type of supplies that are used for oil and gas production generally goes on a barge,” Cutrera said. The only way the port can get credit for the amount of tonnage each barge loads and unloads is if the facilities where the goods are shipped in and out of shares that data with the port, she said.
During her last visit with the corps, Cutrera said she was told she needed to get information for each barge so the corps knows which barge tonnage it has already given the port credit for.
For many of the loading facilities within the port’s district, their concern is what company to bill and how much to bill them for and not how much tonnage is being loaded and unloaded, Cutrera said.
Companies, such as McDermott Inc. and Bollinger Shipyard in Amelia, need the Atchafalaya Bar Channel and Horseshoe Bend in the Atchafalaya River to be dredged to the authorized depth to be able to travel through those areas, Cutrera said. “What happens if they don’t and they decide to leave the area is we lose a lot of jobs. And it will definitely hurt the economy if we can’t keep the river dredged,” Cutrera said.