In the past, high water conditions on the US inland river system followed a well-defined annual schedule. However, in recent years, because of the impact of unpredictable weather, there have been higher river levels for longer periods of time. Similarly, the Mississippi River has been experiencing erratic conditions which have caused several shipping incidents.
The Mississippi’s high water season typically runs from December until May, however extreme water flows can also take place outside these months, due to heavy summer rains. Long-term forecasts are not always accurate, as a huge land mass area and spring snow melt drains into the Mississippi River, and heavy precipitation over that land mass can raise the river level quickly, with little warning.
Last year, the US experienced its most wet 12 month period ever recorded, and high water levels led to numerous problems for ships on inland waters resulting in unexpected draft restrictions, restrictions on navigation, groundings, anchor loss, windlass breakdown, etc leading to delays and extra expense. Quite often a number of ships are forced to queue at the mouth of the Mississippi River due to high waters and fast currents.
At some berths near big bends in the river, Standard noted that the ships are prone to experience eddies and change in current direction, leading to excessive yaw and shock loads on the anchor chain. In such cases, the vessels may need tug assistance to keep them alongside the wharf, even with additional moorings deployed.
Before fixing a voyage, it is suggested to carefully consider and to contract for the reality of high river season, strong currents and rover bed silting. Charterparty should contain some protection against high water expenses like extra tug/pilot expenses and risks of damage and delay associated with same
In addition and before these measures, the ship must be prepared to encounter such situations, the staff must be briefed, all mooring and anchoring gear shoLost anchor incidents in the Mississippi Riveruld be checked and extra mooring lines should be available.