The Water Institute of the Gulf has been awarded a $1.6 million federal grant for next generation technology that will improve operations at Louisiana ports.
The state and port partners, including the Port of New Orleans, the Port of Greater Baton Rouge and the Port of South Louisiana, will match the federal funds from the U.S. Economic Development Administration with $1.4 million — collectively providing $3 million for the Lower Mississippi River SmartPort & Resilience Center.
SmartPort is designed to streamline operations and improve safety on the Mississippi River by sharing real-time data on waves, sediment buildup, weather and river traffic. This provides a comprehensive evaluation of navigation, coastal issues and flood risks on the river. The information will be used by port administrators, port tenants, shipping companies and cargo firms.
"Through the establishment of this innovative technology, SmartPort will bring forward the most sophisticated and efficient information management system for water-borne traffic in the world," said Don Pierson, Louisiana Economic Development secretary, in a statement. "This will surely increase Louisiana’s global competitiveness."
The money will be used to launch SmartPort dashboards at the major south Louisiana ports, along with smaller ports in Lake Providence, Madison, Vidalia, St. Bernard and Plaquemines. This will scale up the program from north Louisiana to the Gulf of Mexico. The dashboards will be used to manage port resilience, helping them better withstand natural disasters and economic shocks. A SmartPort facility, which will serve as a specialized emergency operations center for Mississippi River ports, will be constructed at The Water Campus. The SmartPort program is set to go online in early 2022.
SmartPort was launched in July as an agreement between the New Orleans port, LED and The Water Institute to pilot a wave forecasting tool. IBM and Crescent Towing were brought in to develop tools to validate data on the depth of the port’s shipping channel to give better information for dredging operations.