Spotlight on the Port of Lake Charles – From Riverboats to Refineries

Posted by PortVision

Located at the southwest edge of Louisiana on the Calcasieu River Ship Channel that leads to the Gulf of Mexico, the Port of Lake Charles is currently the 13th busiest seaport in the United States. It handles 58 million tons of cargo annually. The Channel is a complex of lakes, streams and man-made cuts.


The official name of the Port is the Lake Charles Harbor & Terminal District. The Port manages the 35 mile long channel that runs inland as well as the 4-mile extension out into the Gulf. The district is 203 square miles with two marine terminals: the City Docks and Bulk Terminal No. 1. There are also two industrial parks within the Port. In September, the Port received a $10 million federal grant to expand Terminal 1.

The Port describes its principal cargoes as bagged rice, flour/food products; forest products and wood chips; aluminum, barite, and rutile; petroleum coke and other petroleum products. Lumber and agriculture have been present in the Port since the late 1800s; seven oil fields in Calcasieu Parish provided the Port with 7,000 barrels of oil each day. By 1941 the channel had been dredged to a depth of 33 feet and to a width of 250 feet. This year, the US Army Corps of Engineers allocated $10 million to dredge the channel for a consistent 400 foot width along its entire length.

The Calcasieu Channel infrastructure includes an LNG pipeline which will support much of the Port's expected expansion and growth through 2020. Magnolia LNG will build its $3.5 billion, 8 million ton/year liquefied natural gas export facility at the Port; it is expected to open in 2018. Large LNG carriers and Deep Draft vessel traffic will increase due to recent additions of natural gas installations; the Port anticipates becoming one of the US' most active “energy corridors.”

At present, the channel carries 7.5% of the US daily oil consumption and handles 58 million tons of cargo annually. It claims the nation's fourth-largest refinery and two of the nation's largest liquefied natural gas facilities. The Henry Hub, a complex of natural gas pipelines, is located on the channel. Approximately one-third of the US' strategic petroleum reserves are currently stored in the area.

The City Docks area, located 34 miles inland and in the Port's Foreign Trade Zone 87, is a 200 acre facility with twelve deepwater berths (two with 40 foot depths), more than 1l8 million square feet of protected storage, the new IFG grain elevator, a vegetable-oil packaging plant, and an automated terminal. The automated terminal is accessible by rail, truck, barge, or conveyors from a bagging facility. The grain terminal, currently under expansion and construction, will be state-of-the-art.  All facilities in the City Docks are serviced by rail.

Bulk Terminal No. 1 is a dry bulk terminal on 71 acres at Rose Bluff Cutoff on the Calcasieu Ship Channel. The 2,200 foot long wharf can accommodate two vessels simultaneously in 40 foot depth water. The site can transfer cargo from vessel to vessel, vessel to train or truck, or vessel to open storage. More than 3.1 million short tons of dry bulk material is handled annually. This includes material such as petroleum coke, calcined coke, barite, coal, rutile, and woodchips.

As traffic increases in the 400 foot wide channel, the need for accurate and complete AIS vessel data has become crucial for smooth and safe navigation in its waters.  Nearly every major terminal operator in Lake Charles relies on PortVision for real-time and historical ship tracking and vessel movements.  Lake Charles was one of the earliest markets that PortVision served – we have collected over 100 million vessel arrivals, departures, and individual vessel movements from the region since 2007.  Since then PortVision has grown, now enhancing maritime business intelligence and providing ship tracking in most major ports and regions around the world.  You can learn more at
PortVision 360 AIS Vessel Tracking

Posted on Mar 24, 2015, 9:04:00 AM

Topics: Blog