Viking Cruises announces delay due to low levels of Miss. River

Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 5:46 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Mississippi River’s near-historic low levels have stalled barge traffic in and out of Memphis, and now it’s impacting cruise lines.

Viking announced their new ship, the Viking Mississippi, will be delaying its voyage to and through Memphis because of the low levels.

The cruise line only started docking in Memphis on September 26.

“We’re lucky to be at the widest and wildest part of the Mississippi, but it comes with some challenges,” said George Abbott, Director of External Communications for Memphis River Parks Partnership, who coordinates the dockings for Viking in Memphis.

At last check Friday evening, the National Weather Service read -6.09ft., a little higher than earlier this week but still would rank in the top-15 all time lowest points in the river’s recorded history.

Abbott says they coordinate with cruise lines for docking in Memphis, and the low levels have required long conversations to adapt.

“A couple of hours every day, working through the schedule, talking to the cruise ship, making sure the dock is ready,” he said.

“We prep for it. We hope it never have to deal with it, but it does happen,” said Jamie Bigbie

Bigbie is Vice President of Health, Safety, Security, Environmental Quality, and Training (HSSEQT) with Southern-Devall, a towing and barge operations company in Memphis and says the river has caused them to significantly reduce cargo.

Companies have self-imposed a drop from 36 to 25 barges, which is a 40% reduction according to Bigbie, and each barge is reduced by 30% to keep tows from running aground.

“Grain that’s coming down the river, steel coils, aggregate rock, you name it it’s all being affected,” Bigbie said. “Some of these transits may take you seven days. Now they’re twice as long because of the shutdowns.”

Viking says guests have been notified of the delays and at this time expect to continue with their schedule.

Abbott says schedules with cruise ships on the river are rarely set in stone.

“We have a schedule at the beginning of the year. It never stays consistent,” Abbott said.

Both Bigbie and Abbott acknowledge that the river can be unpredictable but are thankful that the Mississippi River is one of the widest and deepest points.

At this point of lows, they’re doing what all farmers do at times like this and are praying for rain.

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