The U.S. Coast Guard will reopen the Mississippi River Friday morning with only a few restrictions allowing the Carnival Elation cruise ship to return to the Port of New Orleans’ Erato Street Cruise Terminal.

The cruise ship was originally scheduled to return to New Orleans on Thursday. Coast Guard officials will begin to allow cargo vessels on a prioritized basis to begin moving Friday, as well.

“This is great news that traffic and commerce is back on the Mississippi River,” said Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange. “Kudos goes to the Corps of Engineers, pilot organizations and the Coast Guard for working closely with all Port stakeholders to expedite surveys and assessments on the River following Hurricane Isaac.”

The 2,052-passenger Carnival Elation will arrive at the Port Friday afternoon and Port of New Orleans Terminal operators anticipate commencing operations Friday.

Port staff fanned across Port terminals and properties today and reported no flooding and very minimal wind damage to facilities, but substantial wind-blown damage to the Port’s administrative building. Some minimal wind and water damage was reported at the Julia Street Cruise Terminal, but no damage at the Erato Street Cruise Terminal, which is home to Carnival Cruise Lines. Also, all passenger vehicles within the cruise parking garage appeared unscathed.

“We were very fortunate during this entire storm event,” LaGrange said. “Again we appreciate the overwhelming support from our customers and colleagues around the nation and the world and our staff is working tirelessly to ensure operations are back to normal as soon as possible.”

Industrial and cargo tenants along the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal also reported minimal damage and no flooding as a result of Hurricane Isaac. Due to the Corps of Engineers flood protection system – the new Seabrook Floodgate Structure and the Lake Borgne Surge Barrier, which were both closed for the first time – water levels rose to only 3.5 feet above sea level within the Inner Harbor. That is in stark contrast to the more than 12-foot water levels the Inner Harbor endured in past storms, such as Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Katrina in 2008 and 2005 respectively.

“The U.S. Army Corps’ flood protection system worked remarkably well, keeping industrial assets and Port tenant’s facilities safe and protecting life and property throughout Eastern New Orleans and the Lower Ninth Ward,” LaGrange said.