Calcasieu Ship Channel
On the way out to the jetties you are driving along the Calcasieu Ship Channel. This channel allows ships to travel 34 miles inland to access the Port of Lake Charles, the 12th largest seaport in the United States. More than 1000 ocean-going ships per year travel up the ship channel. The pastel colored buildings across the channel are apartments for the Lake Charles Shipping Pilots. Shipping pilots provide on-ship navigation information to the captains of vessels from all over the globe. Occasional fog, blinding rain storms, wind gusts, and currents can increase the already inherent risks. The principal cargoes moving through the Ship Channel are bagged rice, flour and other food products, forest products, aluminum, Liquefied Natural Gas, and petroleum products. You may be wondering about the strange looking ships with the tall towers sticking up from them. These are Jack-up rigs, specialized barges that are used as a base for servicing drilling platforms, other offshore structures and long bridges. Those tall towers are legs which will be jacked down to the bottom of the sea. Although some have four legs, most have only three because that it makes it easier to level the structure. You will also see supply boats. These vessels range from 65 to 350 feet in length and are utilized to transport goods and personnel to and from offshore oil platforms. Diesel fuel, potable water, and chemicals used in the drilling process comprise the bulk of the cargo. Besides the ships associated with oil production you will also see an endless variety of fishing boats, both commercial and recreational, enormous ocean going freighters, tankers and the tugs and pilot boats needed to escort them.