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Coast Guard to establish ‘moving safety zones’ around cruise ships on Lower Mississippi

Cruise ship
in New Orleans

In an effort to safeguard large cruise ships using the Lower Mississippi River near New Orleans, LA, the U.S. Coast Guard has implemented a new rule that will establish a “moving safety zone” around each such cruise ship, which prohibits any other vessel from entering the safety zone that covers waters from bank-to-bank, as well as one mile ahead and one mile astern.

“This safety measure is necessary to protect persons and vessels from potential safety hazards associated with congested maritime traffic on the Lower Mississippi River,” explains a final rule published by the Coast Guard in the Federal Register on Oct. 31.

A safety zone will be established temporarily while a cruise ship is between the New Orleans Cruise Ship Terminal and the Southwest Pass Sea Buoy, says the notice. The rule becomes effective on December 5.

According to the Coast Guard, a “large cruise ship” is defined as “a vessel over 100 feet in length, carrying more than 500 passengers for hire, making a voyage lasting more than 24 hours, any part of which is on the high seas, and for which passengers are embarked or disembarked in the United States…,” says the final rule.

The Coast Guard noted that currently there are more vessels on the Mississippi River than ever before.

Even though a moving safety zone – extending one mile in front and one mile behind a large cruise ship – will be established by this new rule, the Coast Guard says it will not interfere with another vessel’s ability to make “passing or overtaking” arrangements. “The moving safety zone is intended to enable early notification of passing or overtaking arrangements, providing additional time and opportunity to negotiate navigational arrangements to maneuver without causing delay in transit for both the large cruise ship and other vessels operating in the area,” says the notice.

Further information about these new moving safety zones is available from Lieutenant Commander Brandon Sullivan, of the Coast Guard’s New Orleans sector, at 504-365-2280 or