Following the explosion and oil spill from the oil rig “Deepwater Horizon”, the latest information is that the Mississippi River and its primary deep water entrance, Southwest pass, remain fully open to inbound and outbound marine traffic.
The Coast Guard has stated in its recent press release on the subject that they intend "to facilitate the movement of marine traffic to the fullest extent possible throughout the duration of the oil spill response." Attached below is the link to this release, which advises vessel traffic to avoid any spill areas during voyages in the vicinity of Southeast Louisiana, as well as the approaches to Southwest Pass. At present, these are unobstructed but, in the future, depending on the movement of oil on the water, it may be necessary for vessels to divert outside the "safety fairways" in order to make their approach to the Southwest Pass sea buoy. The pilots can advise mariners of this, and are available to approaching ships on Channel 9 VHF, as set forth in Vol. 5 of the U. S. Coast Pilot. This press release also gives full contact information for the Coast Guard Captain of the Port, who is Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, at 504-565-5103, or by email at D08-PF-SECNEWORLEANS-WATERWAYS@uscg.mil.
The outflow of fresh water from the Mississippi River should tend to keep oil away from the immediate approaches to Southwest Pass. Further advice may issued should it become necessary for ships to alter their approach or departure routing due of the presence of oil or oil cleanup operations.
If ships become oiled during the approach to the delta, they may be required to stop at "Decontamination Stations" in the lower river before proceeding and this could eventually become mandatory. When possible, steering around any obvious floating oil is the best course of action.
Information is also available on the website for the "Unified Command" which can be accessed below.
Shipowners and Masters should liaise in the first instance with their local steamship agents, who should be aware of the latest position.
The following links provide useful and regularly updated information.
Source of information:
Chaffe McCall L.L.P