History – Open Waters Louisiana



New Orleans became one of the most important cities in North America after its founding in 1718 for one reason: The Mississippi River. The main reason Jefferson signed the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 was to get control of New Orleans and the river.

With more than 2,800 miles of navigable waterways (second only to Alaska), Louisiana has been home to the nation’s largest concentration of maritime workers and activity for decades. As global commerce grows increasingly important, so does Louisiana’s maritime industry. 

For almost three centuries, Mississippi River pilots have taken extraordinary risks, navigating the narrow, ever-changing, always treacherous river. To remove outside pressures that can compromise safety, state lawmakers require the owners of foreign ships to engage a Louisiana river pilot to board and safely facilitate the inland navigation of their vessels as soon as they enter the river. While the community benefits immensely, no Louisiana tax dollars are ever used to pay for pilot services.

The Mississippi is never the same river twice and the people who work it are one of a kind. If the state is to continue to remain competitive, making sure we have a competent and diverse supply chain workforce with the proper skills and experience is imperative. Ours is a unique culture made up of individuals as diverse as the ships that traverse these waters. We invite you to be part of it.


Louisiana ranks #1 in waterborne traffic.

447Million Tons

In 2019, river pilots transported 447 million tons of cargo in and out of the mouth of the Mississippi River, making it one of the busiest waterways in the world.


The amount lost per day to the economy if there is any kind of closure on the Mississippi River.


For every $1 invested in the Louisiana maritime industry, more than $8 is returned to Louisiana coffers.

“This is not Mark Twain’s Mississippi. He didn’t have to protect the environment from
chemical spills or the effects of climate change.We make history by preventing disasters.”