Baton Rouge-based The Water Institute of the Gulf, the Port of New Orleans and Louisiana Economic Development have partnered on a new smart port initiative aimed at streamlining operations and improving safety along the Mississippi River.
As part of the initiative, the Water Institute of the Gulf will install data sensors on tugboats and other vessels navigating the Port of New Orleans district. Those sensors will detect sediment levels in shallow areas of the Mississippi River, giving officials a real-time picture of the bottom of the river. The information helps promote safety for those on the river and provide data for future dredging decisions.
Helping ports along the river get ahead of their dredging needs also comes with climate benefits, like reduced emissions through construction, says Justin Ehrenwerth, president and CEO of The Water Institute of the Gulf.
“Dynamic water levels, sedimentation and reduced visibility are major challenges for ports all along the Mississippi River and beyond,” Ehrenwerth says. “Leveraging existing technology and developing new predictive tools will allow us to address some of the most pressing challenges of today while anticipating those of tomorrow.”
A second phase of the project will digitally connect container depots, road transporters, dock terminals, shipping lines, warehouses and cargo operators to coordinate the port’s supply chain. While this phase creates a unified digital command at the New Orleans port and on the Water Campus, officials believe the model can be applied to ports across the state in the future.
The partnership between the Water Institute and state and local port authorities will also help support the institute’s expansion. For the initiative’s third phase, the Water Institute plans to build a hurricane and flood risk center to support the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the Louisiana National Guard and other emergency management partners. That risk center would model data to enhance preparation for, and response to, coastal and inland flooding events.
While the Port of New Orleans is paying the Water Institute $125,000 to complete the first phase over a two-month period, LED is pursuing federal funds to advance the second phase. Officials didn’t release a timeline for the project, nor did they release estimates on how much the second or third phases of the project would cost.