Malte B, a 300-foot ship based in Antigua and Barbados, arrived Wednesday at the Port of Morgan City to export 2,500 tons of rice to Haiti. The trip is the 19th that an import-export ship has made to the Port of Morgan City since August 2014.
For the 19th time in a year, an import-export ship made its way into the Port of Morgan City Wednesday afternoon, but port officials say ships could be making at least weekly trips to the port if adequate funds were available to dredge the waterways. A 300-foot-long ship named Malte B made its first voyage Wednesday to the Port of Morgan City. The Oslo Bulk 9, a 360-foot import-export ship, had made previous visits to the port. The Malte B is based in Antigua and Barbados with a Russian and Filipino crew, Port of Morgan City Executive Director Raymond “Mac” Wade said. The ship is exporting 2,500 tons of rice for Planters Rice Mill of Abbeville to Haiti, Wade said. Rice trucks began arriving July 31 at the Port of Morgan City in preparation of the ship’s arrival. About 150 truckloads of rice made it to the port, he said. Wade expected the ship to leave the port sometime today. The last time an import-export ship came to Morgan City was in early May when the Oslo Bulk 9 shipped 3,500 tons of rice to Haiti. The biggest challenge for Port of Morgan City officials right now is the shallow depth of the Atchafalaya River Bar Channel, which is restricting the size of ships that travel to the port, Wade said. The Bar Channel extends beyond the end of the Atchafalaya River and goes all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. The Bar Channel is about 22 miles long and begins about 20 miles south of the Port of Morgan City dock. Corps officials completed the last dredging cycle in the Bar Channel on Jan. 2. The channel is being dredged an average of once a year due to funding limitations, and is scheduled to be dredged again in mid-September, Wade said. After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredges the Bar Channel, it only keeps its 20- foot depth for 90 to 100 days before it starts getting progressively shallower, he said. “All this high water we’ve had is just killing us,” Wade said. The depth is adequate in the Atchafalaya River, but the high water has caused lots of silt to build up in the Bar Channel, he said. Though the channel is Congressionally-mandated to be 20 feet deep, the channel is currently only about 15 feet deep and maybe 16 to 16.5 feet deep at high tide, Wade said. Wade met with government officials last week in Washington, D.C., to try to come up with a solution. To keep the proper channel depth, a dredge needs to be available at the channel 365 days a year. “That’s the only way we’re going to keep that channel open,” he said. “Too many of the companies tell us they won’t bring stuff in because they’re worried about getting stuck,” Wade said. “It hurts our local industry, our oilfield and fabricators.” Some import-export ships are also not able to come to the port due to the Bar Channel’s lack of depth, he said. “We’re missing shipments right now,” Wade said. “The rice growers are very interested in using the Port of Morgan City, but you’ve got to have the water for them to be able to ship the material out.” PMI Nutrition International, which is owned by Land O’ Lakes, began importing sea salt and exporting grain from the Port of Morgan City in August 2014 but can’t make it to the port now because of the channel depth, Wade said. Overall, the Port of Morgan City is receiving lots of interest from the import-export industry and is getting calls almost daily, Wade said. Every time an import-export ship makes a trip to the port, the economic impact to the area is $300,000, based on a recent economic analysis, he said. If the Atchafalaya River Bar Channel could maintain a consistent 20-foot depth, Wade is confident the Port of Morgan City would have at least one import-export ship coming to the port each week, he said. “One of these days, you’ll have ships anchored out, waiting to come in (to the Port of Morgan City),” Wade said.
Published by Daily Review 08/07/15