Skip to comments.Bottled-Up River Prevents Ships From Reaching Gulf (rail, truck, barge - diverting to new ports)
Posted on 09/02/2005 3:18:39 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
...And they may see an increase in coffee prices. New Orleans, one the nation's biggest coffee ports, holds about 8% of the world's supply, and coffee industry experts predicted that the loss of the tens of thousands of tons stored there would take a year to replace. Coffee contracts have risen 11% this week in New York trading.
...One major impediment to reopening the port is the lack of workers, LaGrange said, because many port employees have left the flood-ravaged city. In addition, railroads that serve the port were still having to route trains around New Orleans because of damage to tracks and rail bridges.
While they wait for the Louisiana ports to reopen, shipping companies are turning to other ports and rail routes as alternatives to the river.
Some agricultural products and another Mississippi mainstay, coal, will move onto railway cars, straining capacity and pushing shipping prices up, analysts and companies said.
Much of the coal is expected to head for Baltimore, said broker Dan Vaughn of United Power Inc., because that city's port has some of the specialized equipment and facilities that were in place at storm-damaged ports.
"Railing to Baltimore is exactly what they're looking at," Vaughn said.
Coal prices have risen as dealers factored in new travel expenses for domestic producers and the loss of imports coming up the Mississippi.
Trucking companies won't gain much because most bulk commodities aren't worth shipping that way. It takes 60 semi-trucks to haul what fits on a single barge.
The largest port set to gain from diverted traffic is Houston.
(Excerpt) Read more at latimes.com ...
Yep, I see a bright future for the Port of Houston and Galveston both....
I don't give a damn about $6.00/gallon gas prices, but COFFEE!!!!
I bought some yesterday. I should have stocked up.
I guess any port is vulnerable.
A good lesson.
Just when I was going to switch my hybrid from gasoline to coffee. Wouldn't you know it?
One of the things that let the Port of Houston really prosper was the destruction of port facilities at Galveston after their Great Storm.
Ports being at the water are vunerable. What NO had going for it was a broad expanse of navigable river, rail lines, barge traffic, and being the last major place on the Mississippi draainage.
Probably, after they get the ship channels cleared, it will go back to being an important port (you don't need a lot of city. You need warehouses, road and rail connections, and a place for the barge and ship traffic to tie up to) because of the geography of how it's easier to get goods down river and out. The lands near the river are above sea level. A lot of stuff on the other side of the river faired quite well.
But it will lose business. And some of that business will never come back because there are alternatives.
KAC, that's how I see it-- there's a good case to be made for rebuilding the Port of New Orleans. However, it's my opinion that the city is dying while we watch, and not worth rebuilding- at least not in the same vulnerable area.
A side note? I read ( but have not confirmed ) that NO was our only supertanker hub. If so, that's a little crazy-- it seems to me we need at least one on each coast, plus the Gulf of Mexico.
We don't need any choke points.
The hub is offshore, so tankers didn't have to come into port. But it was the only one of it's type.
Seeing what's going on in New Orleans, I think maybe it's a great thing that it'll never be the same again.
I do suspect that the old, high parts of the city will continue to be kept, just because they aren't that damaged (unless they get burned down.)
But will New Orleans be the jewel? I bet it's now BR's turn to shine.
Exactly- when I was involved in counterterrorism many years ago, 60% of our oil came through the Gulf, and that was why Castro ( who was a Soviet proxy ) was fomenting revolution in Central & South America-- to draw a noose around the Gulf.
We need more diversified ports-- concentrating any major resource in one location is suicidal.
I vaguely recall it being "somewhere offshore"-- thanks for the clarification.
I can certainly see salvaging some of the historic parts- as for the rest, three to six months ( probably more ) of being partly or wholly submerged in brackish water will render the point moot. All the wiring and much of the piping will be ruined, and as far as structural integrity goes, who knows? Even steel, masonry, and concrete don't do well in water unless primed and sealed for it. It's going to be a bloody mess.
So much of New Orleans has been destroyed (or was in the process of being consumed) by termites, I'm surprised so much of it is still standing.
The more I read and listen, the more I'm jumping
on the Idea Wagon that building a new port OUTSIDE
the hurricane zone makes more sense than trying to
salvage and rebuild NO. For the folks living down
there such a measure would be a staggering emotional
crisis (as if they're not at that point now).
But to rebuild and be under the constant threat of
Mother Nature repeating her violence in the same
area makes no sense.
As for the homeless...that idea of each Church
community sponsoring one family is a great one.
I know the members of my Church would be more
than willing to transport a family to our community,
get their kids settled into our schools, provide
housing and guarantee Dad/Mom a job. We've done
it before several times.
That's how I see it. If my neighbor's house washed away in a flood, I'd certainly help him rebuild it-- but not in the same location.
A whole lot of the infrastructure is still there...miles of wharf and warehouse...expect that will stay used, because one doesn't reinvent the wheel. But I would move my headquarters further upstream, I believe.
This is what will also hamper getting the refineries back up and running.
It appears it was the only one currently in operation, but some may have just come online a few months before the hurricane and others are going through the application process to get a license.
This disaster could be a great opportunity if approached that way.
Indeed, an entire city and coastal area will have to be rebuilt, although I hope not below sea level.
Denny Hastert has already tried to broach this subject. However the Category 5 'Rat onslaught against the GOP has begun and any Pubbies who can't see that will be swept away in its aftermath.
Glad to hear that- thanks for the link.
Trains burn lots of diesel...
run to Sams club buy it all up
Stratfor's take on the matter, long but adding a few interesting notes:
By George Friedman
The American political system was founded in Philadelphia, but the American nation was built on the vast farmlands that stretch from the Alleghenies to the Rockies. That farmland produced the wealth that funded American industrialization: It permitted the formation of a class of small landholders who, amazingly, could produce more than they could consume. They could sell their excess crops in the east and in Europe and save that money, which eventually became the founding capital of American industry.
But it was not the extraordinary land nor the farmers and ranchers who alone set the process in motion. Rather, it was geography -- the extraordinary system of rivers that flowed through the Midwest and allowed them to ship their surplus to the rest of the world. All of the rivers flowed into one -- the Mississippi -- and the Mississippi flowed to the ports in and around one city: New Orleans. It was in New Orleans that the barges from upstream were unloaded and their cargos stored, sold and reloaded on ocean-going vessels. Until last Sunday, New Orleans was, in many ways, the pivot of the American economy.
For that reason, the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815 was a key moment in American history. Even though the battle occurred after the War of 1812 was over, had the British taken New Orleans, we suspect they wouldn't have given it back. Without New Orleans, the entire Louisiana Purchase would have been valueless to the United States. Or, to state it more precisely, the British would control the region because, at the end of the day, the value of the Purchase was the land and the rivers - which all converged on the Mississippi and the ultimate port of New Orleans. The hero of the battle was Andrew Jackson, and when he became president, his obsession with Texas had much to do with keeping the Mexicans away from New Orleans.
During the Cold War, a macabre topic of discussion among bored graduate students who studied such things was this: If the Soviets could destroy one city with a large nuclear device, which would it be? The usual answers were Washington or New York. For me, the answer was simple: New Orleans. If the Mississippi River was shut to traffic, then the foundations of the economy would be shattered. The industrial minerals needed in the factories wouldn't come in, and the agricultural wealth wouldn't flow out. Alternative routes really weren't available. The Germans knew it too: A U-boat campaign occurred near the mouth of the Mississippi during World War II. Both the Germans and Stratfor have stood with Andy Jackson: New Orleans was the prize.
Last Sunday, nature took out New Orleans almost as surely as a nuclear strike. Hurricane Katrina's geopolitical effect was not, in many ways, distinguishable from a mushroom cloud. The key exit from North America was closed. The petrochemical industry, which has become an added value to the region since Jackson's days, was at risk. The navigability of the Mississippi south of New Orleans was a question mark. New Orleans as a city and as a port complex had ceased to exist, and it was not clear that it could recover.
The Ports of South Louisiana and New Orleans, which run north and south of the city, are as important today as at any point during the history of the republic. On its own merit, POSL is the largest port in the United States by tonnage and the fifth-largest in the world. It exports more than 52 million tons a year, of which more than half are agricultural products -- corn, soybeans and so on. A large proportion of U.S. agriculture flows out of the port. Almost as much cargo, nearly 17 million tons, comes in through the port -- including not only crude oil, but chemicals and fertilizers, coal, concrete and so on.
A simple way to think about the New Orleans port complex is that it is where the bulk commodities of agriculture go out to the world and the bulk commodities of industrialism come in. The commodity chain of the global food industry starts here, as does that of American industrialism. If these facilities are gone, more than the price of goods shifts: The very physical structure of the global economy would have to be reshaped. Consider the impact to the U.S. auto industry if steel doesn't come up the river, or the effect on global food supplies if U.S. corn and soybeans don't get to the markets.
The problem is that there are no good shipping alternatives. River transport is cheap, and most of the commodities we are discussing have low value-to-weight ratios. The U.S. transport system was built on the assumption that these commodities would travel to and from New Orleans by barge, where they would be loaded on ships or offloaded. Apart from port capacity elsewhere in the United States, there aren't enough trucks or rail cars to handle the long-distance hauling of these enormous quantities -- assuming for the moment that the economics could be managed, which they can't be.
The focus in the media has been on the oil industry in Louisiana and Mississippi. This is not a trivial question, but in a certain sense, it is dwarfed by the shipping issue. First, Louisiana is the source of about 15 percent of U.S.-produced petroleum, much of it from the Gulf. The local refineries are critical to American infrastructure. Were all of these facilities to be lost, the effect on the price of oil worldwide would be extraordinarily painful. If the river itself became unnavigable or if the ports are no longer functioning, however, the impact to the wider economy would be significantly more severe. In a sense, there is more flexibility in oil than in the physical transport of these other commodities.
There is clearly good news as information comes in. By all accounts, the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, which services supertankers in the Gulf, is intact. Port Fourchon, which is the center of extraction operations in the Gulf, has sustained damage but is recoverable. The status of the oil platforms is unclear and it is not known what the underwater systems look like, but on the surface, the damage - though not trivial -- is manageable.
The news on the river is also far better than would have been expected on Sunday. The river has not changed its course. No major levees containing the river have burst. The Mississippi apparently has not silted up to such an extent that massive dredging would be required to render it navigable. Even the port facilities, although apparently damaged in many places and destroyed in few, are still there. The river, as transport corridor, has not been lost.
What has been lost is the city of New Orleans and many of the residential suburban areas around it. The population has fled, leaving behind a relatively small number of people in desperate straits. Some are dead, others are dying, and the magnitude of the situation dwarfs the resources required to ameliorate their condition. But it is not the population that is trapped in New Orleans that is of geopolitical significance: It is the population that has left and has nowhere to return to.
The oil fields, pipelines and ports required a skilled workforce in order to operate. That workforce requires homes. They require stores to buy food and other supplies. Hospitals and doctors. Schools for their children. In other words, in order to operate the facilities critical to the United States, you need a workforce to do it -- and that workforce is gone. Unlike in other disasters, that workforce cannot return to the region because they have no place to live. New Orleans is gone, and the metropolitan area surrounding New Orleans is either gone or so badly damaged that it will not be inhabitable for a long time.
It is possible to jury-rig around this problem for a short time. But the fact is that those who have left the area have gone to live with relatives and friends. Those who had the ability to leave also had networks of relationships and resources to manage their exile. But those resources are not infinite -- and as it becomes apparent that these people will not be returning to New Orleans any time soon, they will be enrolling their children in new schools, finding new jobs, finding new accommodations. If they have any insurance money coming, they will collect it. If they have none, then -- whatever emotional connections they may have to their home -- their economic connection to it has been severed. In a very short time, these people will be making decisions that will start to reshape population and workforce patterns in the region.
A city is a complex and ongoing process - one that requires physical infrastructure to support the people who live in it and people to operate that physical infrastructure. We don't simply mean power plants or sewage treatment facilities, although they are critical. Someone has to be able to sell a bottle of milk or a new shirt. Someone has to be able to repair a car or do surgery. And the people who do those things, along with the infrastructure that supports them, are gone -- and they are not coming back anytime soon.
It is in this sense, then, that it seems almost as if a nuclear weapon went off in New Orleans. The people mostly have fled rather than died, but they are gone. Not all of the facilities are destroyed, but most are. It appears to us that New Orleans and its environs have passed the point of recoverability. The area can recover, to be sure, but only with the commitment of massive resources from outside -- and those resources would always be at risk to another Katrina.
The displacement of population is the crisis that New Orleans faces. It is also a national crisis, because the largest port in the United States cannot function without a city around it. The physical and business processes of a port cannot occur in a ghost town, and right now, that is what New Orleans is. It is not about the facilities, and it is not about the oil. It is about the loss of a city's population and the paralysis of the largest port in the United States.
Let's go back to the beginning. The United States historically has depended on the Mississippi and its tributaries for transport. Barges navigate the river. Ships go on the ocean. The barges must offload to the ships and vice versa. There must be a facility to empower this exchange. It is also the facility where goods are stored in transit. Without this port, the river can't be used. Protecting that port has been, from the time of the Louisiana Purchase, a fundamental national security issue for the United States.
Katrina has taken out the port -- not by destroying the facilities, but by rendering the area uninhabited and potentially uninhabitable. That means that even if the Mississippi remains navigable, the absence of a port near the mouth of the river makes the Mississippi enormously less useful than it was. For these reasons, the United States has lost not only its biggest port complex, but also the utility of its river transport system -- the foundation of the entire American transport system. There are some substitutes, but none with sufficient capacity to solve the problem.
It follows from this that the port will have to be revived and, one would assume, the city as well. The ports around New Orleans are located as far north as they can be and still be accessed by ocean-going vessels. The need for ships to be able to pass each other in the waterways, which narrow to the north, adds to the problem. Besides, the Highway 190 bridge in Baton Rouge blocks the river going north. New Orleans is where it is for a reason: The United States needs a city right there.
New Orleans is not optional for the United States' commercial infrastructure. It is a terrible place for a city to be located, but exactly the place where a city must exist. With that as a given, a city will return there because the alternatives are too devastating. The harvest is coming, and that means that the port will have to be opened soon. As in Iraq, premiums will be paid to people prepared to endure the hardships of working in New Orleans. But in the end, the city will return because it has to.
Geopolitics is the stuff of permanent geographical realities and the way they interact with political life. Geopolitics created New Orleans. Geopolitics caused American presidents to obsess over its safety. And geopolitics will force the city's resurrection, even if it is in the worst imaginable place.
Costs will rise to the consumer.
I wonder if the highway from Mexico will be helpful now.
Shipping in from Canada and Mexico could help.....???
Thanks for the post.
Today, the Port of New Orleans is at the center of the worlds busiest port complex Louisianas Lower Mississippi River. Its proximity to the American Midwest via a 14,500-mile inland waterway system makes New Orleans the port of choice for the movement of cargoes such as steel, grain, containers and manufactured goods.
The Port of New Orleans is the only deepwater port in the United States served by six class one railroads. This gives port users direct and economical rail service to or from anywhere in the country.
New Orleans is one of Americas leading general cargo ports. A productive and efficient private maritime industry has help produce impressive results, including the USAs top market share for import steel, natural rubber, plywood and coffee.
In the last 10 years, the Port of New Orleans has invested more than $400 million in new state-of-the-art facilities. Improved breakbulk and container terminals feature new multipurpose cranes, expanded marshalling yards and a new roadway to handle truck traffic.
As we open the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal, the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans is committed to building a port, which will serve the needs of the global marketplace well into the new century.
The Boards mission is to maximize the flow of foreign and domestic waterborne commerce throughout the Port of New Orleans.
The Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans governs the Port of New Orleans. The Board sets policies and regulates traffic and commerce of the Port.
The Board is made up of seven commissioners. They are unsalaried and serve five-year staggered terms. The governor of Louisiana appoints board members from a list of three nominees submitted by 19 local business, civic, labor, education and maritime groups.
The seven-person board reflects the three-parish (county) jurisdiction of the Board. Four members are selected from Orleans Parish, two from Jefferson Parish and one from St. Bernard Parish.
The Ports facilities include 22 million square feet of cargo handling area and more than 6 million square feet of covered storage area.
The Ports facilities accommodate an average of 2,000 vessel calls each year.
ORIGIN/DESTINATION OF CARGO
* American Midwest (via inland waterway system)
* Latin America * Asia
* Europe * Africa
* Steel * Coffee
* Forest Products * Rubber
* Containerized Cargo * Copper
q Mississippi River - The Port of New Orleans is ideally located on the 14,500 mile Mid-America inland waterway system.
q Worlds Busiest Waterway - More than 6,000 ocean vessels annually move through New Orleans on the Mississippi River.
q Statewide Economic Impact - Maritime activity within the Port of New Orleans is responsible for more than 107,000 jobs, $2 billion in earnings, $13 billion in spending and $231 million in taxes statewide.
q General Cargo Port - The Port of New Orleans is a diverse general cargo port, handling containerized cargo such as apparel, food products, and consumer merchandise. The Ports general cargo volume has averaged 11.2 million tons (1998-2002), with a record 14.1 million tons in 1998.
q Americas Most Intermodal Port - In addition to excellent rail service; 50 ocean carriers, 16 barge lines, and 75 truck lines serve the Port of New Orleans.
q $400 Million in New Facilities - The Board has invested in new wharves, terminals, marshalling yards, cranes and transportation infrastructure in the past 10 years.
q Napoleon Container Terminal - The $100 million state-of-art terminal features four dockside gantry cranes and six rubber tire gantry cranes in the marshalling yard. Projected annual capacity is 366,000 teu. The 61-acre terminal (48-acre marshalling area) is scheduled to open in the Summer of 2003.
q Truck Access - Local and national carriers provide truck service via the Interstate Highway System. The Clarence Henry Truckway gives truckers speedy and dedicated access to the Ports Mississippi River terminals.
q Foreign Trade Zone - A defined area where foreign merchandise may be brought into the country without being immediately subject to the usual U.S. Customs regulations.
q Dockside Cold Storage - New Orleans Cold Storage operates a dockside cold storage facility at the Ports Jourdan Road Terminal on the Industrial Canal/Mississippi River Gulf Outlet. The 160,000 s.f. facility houses ten "super blast" freezing cells.
q Rail Access - The Port of New Orleans is the only seaport in the U.S. served by six class one rail lines Burlington Northern/Santa Fe, Canadian National, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific.
q Worlds Longest Wharf - The 2.01 mile long quay between Henry Clay Avenue and Milan Street terminals can accommodate as many as 15 vessels simultaneously.
q Import Steel - The Port of New Orleans is a leading port for the movement of imported steel. Countries of origin include Japan, Brazil, Russia and Mexico.
q No. 1 in Natural Rubber - The Port of New Orleans is the nations top port for imported natural rubber. Countries of origin include Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
q Coffee Handled Here - New Orleans is the nations premier coffee-handling port, with 14 warehouses, more than 5.5 million feet of storage space and six roasting facilities in a 20 mile radius. Two of the most modern bulk processing operations are located in New Orleans: Dupuy Storage and Forwarding Corp. (first in U.S.) and Silocaf of New Orleans, Inc. (worlds largest).
q Cruise Port - More than 700,000 passengers sail through the Port of New Orleans each year. Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines sail weekly to destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico. The Delta Queen Steamboat Company offers excursions along the nations inland river system. RiverBarge Excursions hotel-on-barge River Explorer features a New Orleans/Memphis itinerary.
Lightering vessels are whats used in the Port of Houston...Its a slower operation, but steady...
The Houston Ship channel cannot handle deeper drafted ships...
It is a novel concept to call this region "stable".
Mobile will pick up some of the slack as well. With access to the Mississippi via the Tenn-Tom waterway, barge traffic could be diverted to Mobile. They can handle coal there, too. The big question with Mobile is whether they can handle the added volume.
Yep. But long term I suspect NO will come rolling back as a port, if not the city that care forgot...
bump for later read
I have been wondering why there has been no mention of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway taking up some of the slack from the Mississippi being blocked for now. Port of Mobile has already opened, and while the Tenn-Tom was outdated by the time it was finished, an inefficient waterway is a lot better than none at all, especially for grain that is already on barges.
Would love to know what someone with knowledge of river barges thinks about Tenn-Tom as at least a partial relief valve in this crisis.
Yep, I see a bright future for the Port of Houston and Galveston both....""
Salvation for independent truckers, also?? They are parking their trucks due to the price of fuel.
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