Port activities stay on track despite water

Published 2:00 am Thursday, April 10, 2008

NATCHEZ — Despite problems impacting thousands along the newly swollen river the Natchez-Adams Port has remained problem free so far.

The port’s executive director, Anthony Hauer, said the port, and shipping industry in general, are very fortunate not to have experienced problems that have impacted the river in the past.

Hauer said accidents are not uncommon occurrences during flood stage.

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And of those accidents barges, loose of their fleets, drift unmanned down river and cause problems.

Hauer said the port has seen no loose barges because the port does not own their own fleets and fleets that are docked near the port have very cautious owners.

Hauer said it was only a couple of years ago when a series of barges struck the bridge and another loose barge struck the dock at the grain elevator.

“So far things are business as usual,” he said.

Hauer said the higher than normal river water has not slowed business at the port.

Both docks are operational Hauer said.

Hauer said aside from adjusting the mooring lines things at the port are running smoothly.

One of the most striking changes at the port is the Grand Soliel casino boat moored there for renovations.

Like an enormous barometer, the boat has risen with the river.

When the boat first arrived at the port, in February, its roof was below the level of the dock.

Now the second story of the three-story boat has been elevated above the dock.

And while Hauer and dockworkers have not been suffering from the Mississippi’s high waters the same cannot be said for the situation north of the river.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Teresa Hatfield said the river’s current flood stage has created a “tricky situation,” for most who work on the river.

Hatfield, stationed at the Coast Guard’s Vicksburg office, said in the past two weeks rouge barges have stuck two bridges, in close proximity to each other, on four occasions.

Hatfield said the high water and high incident of “bridge-a-llisions,” has caused the Coast Guard to put the Waterways Action Plan into action.

Hatfield said the action plan basically puts certain restrictions on various sections of the river.

In Vicksburg, southbound barges have been restricted from nighttime travel and tow restrictions have also been put into place.

Hatfield said the tow restrictions help to ensure that tugboats have enough power to control their fleet of barges in the swift current generated by the higher than usual river elevations.

Tugboats must have motors capable of producing 280 horsepower per barge to be able pass through Vicksburg.

However those restrictions do not impact Natchez.

Hatfield said from Greenville to Natchez there have been no reported problems on the river.