Lake Charles Port vessel traffic to double

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LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — Port of Lake Charles officials say vessel traffic is expected to increase by more than 50 percent over the next five years and double within the decade.

The American Press reports (http://bit.ly/1eOXZNb ) the port released the second of three reports Tuesday during a Harbor and Safety Committee meeting, studying the current and future projections of traffic on the Calcasieu Ship Channel.

The major find of the study is that the ship channel can handle the additional vessels but that dredging and channel widening are necessary.

"The No. 1 thing that has to happen is the channel must be maintained to its proper width and depth," said Bill Rase, executive director of the port. "That is the artery that keeps the blood flowing for the projects that are coming on board and the ones that are already here."

With more than $67 billion worth of projected capital investments in Southwest Louisiana, half of those investments correlate with the port. The influx of channel use is attributed to expanded operations of existing terminals and the construction of several proposed facilities. However, the major increase will be vessels carrying liquefied natural gas.

The study, which has been ongoing for four months, used a simulation model to evaluate the need for changes to the channel's operations and infrastructure to lessen delays for ships. Traffic is expected to climb from 1,000 vessels annually to more than 2,000 vessels in 2020.

With more traffic comes longer wait times for vessels to enter and leave the port, the report says.

"We have to make this channel as efficient as we possibly can," said Channing Hayden, director of navigation and security at the port. "We have to make this a desirable place for industries to build their facilities, bring their vessels and benefit our area."

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Information from: American Press, http://www.americanpress.com

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