Port of New Orleans officials continue to work closely with the U.S. Coast Guard to determine when the Mississippi River could reopen following slow-moving Hurricane Isaac.

The Coast Guard plans to assess the Lower Mississippi River at first light Thursday and continue to work with river pilot organizations and port officials to reopen the channel as soon as safely possible.

Once an assessment of the River is made, soundings of the channel are conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine if there are any changes to the channel’s draft or storm debris that could hinder navigation. There is no official word on when the Mississippi River could reopen, but Port officials hope to resume operations by the weekend.

The nine general cargo ships awaiting entry to the Port, along with the Carnival Elation cruise ship, which was due back in New Orleans Thursday, are priorities for the Coast Guard.

“The Carnival Elation is a top priority for the Coast Guard and they have pledged to do all they can to return the vessel to New Orleans as soon as they can,” said Gary LaGrange, Port President and CEO.  “Safety is always paramount and we stand ready to assist all efforts to ensure the Mississippi River is safe and ready to reopen for commerce.”

“We want to thank all of our customers and partners for their support throughout this event,” LaGrange said. “We are conducting our own assessments tomorrow and hope to know by close of business Thursday when cargo operations could resume.”

LaGrange added that Port facilities seem to have fared well, except for some minor wind damage.

The Port Administration Building will be open Thursday and employees are expected to return to work.