The Port of New Orleans currently has two options on a new port facility with the one in St Bernard Parish the closest one and Port NOLA’s preference in Violet. The CEO says it is needed as we are at a “critical juncture”.
New Orleans port officials said Wednesday that there isn’t any time to waste in moving forward on a planned expansion of container terminals that can handle growing cargo imports from Asia and other overseas markets. Seeking to counter a rival port expansion plan and resistance from some residents in St. Bernard Parish against the Port of New Orleans’ planned $1.5 billion container terminal there, Port Nola CEO Brandy Christian made the case that without the terminal, the entire region could lose jobs and economic growth to rival ports in Mobile, Houston and other cities. “We are at a critical juncture and not only in this market,” said Christian, who late last year secured rights to purchase a 1,100-acre property in Violet that will more than double the current port’s container capacity. She noted that the trends in world trade that have favored just-in-time shipping and goods sent to the U.S. in containers have long necessitated a shift in New Orleans’ port capacity from bulk goods towards modern container terminals. And now, the city and region need to prepare for the larger ships that are set to arrive in coming years after earlier plans and proposals died over the preceding decades. “We just don’t have time for it anymore,” she said.nola.com
Again, citizens are raising questions about commercial expansion. Companies are no longer building in the wilderness but rather in populated areas.
Christian’s plea comes as port officials’ plans for the Violet port expansion, known as the Louisiana International Terminal, have met unexpected resistance from some area residents, who earlier this month pressured the St. Bernard Parish Council to vote unanimously against the project. The council vote was largely symbolic. But the opposition group of nearby residents say they hope to sway Gov. John Bel Edwards and other state legislators to back them. Christian and other officials said in a briefing Wednesday that the opposition has been fed by disinformation on social media and elsewhere, which has muddied a compelling economic case for the new container facility. Todd Rives, the new top commercial executive at Port Nola, said the economic need for expanding at Violet are clear; as are the consequences of failing to move quickly.
Container traffic is a growing industry as a ship brings the container to a train or truck which can then deliver it anywhere. The same works in reverse.
The container shipping market for the U.S. as a whole has been growing at around 3% annually over the last decade, but it has been growing at twice that rate for Gulf Coast ports. That’s largely because mega-ports on the east and west coasts have become jammed with ships, creating long delays that have prompted big importers to look for alternatives. Container ships coming into the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, for example, can wait two weeks or more before they are able to unload. But while New Orleans has seen container volume grow more than the national average, it is lagging well behind Gulf Coast rivals. Particularly worrying, said Rives, has been the huge growth — over 320% over the past five years — in container volume coming through the port of Mobile. The key to recapturing this market share, he said, is to win business coming from Asia. That in turn means getting big customers to choose New Orleans as one of their import destinations. A key part of Mobile’s success, he said, was having Walmart choose to locate its distribution centers there. Port Nola executives argue that their expansion plan at Violet has clear advantages in terms of its proximity to rail, road and barge transportation links. Also important to shippers, they said, is its location within the New Orleans’ area levee system.
The port will be reaching out to the community to hopefully alleviate complaints.
They are planning additional community engagements efforts to talk to local residents about the port’s impact. But they stressed that they believe the current site is the best on the river, and that a rival port project in Plaquemines Parish wouldn’t make economic sense. Plaquemines Port has its own ambitions to build a $1 billion container terminal about 32 miles closer to the river’s mouth. The project’s boosters say it could be built with no public money but in a public-private partnership with a developer, LA23Devco. Port Nola executives said they doubt such a project can be achieved without public support. They noted that while Edwards has not explicitly supported one project over another, his administration has signed off on $15 million to purchase the St. Bernard land needed to move ahead with that project.
Which site will win? The biggest draw back I see is traffic. All are on minor roads amd will have to go through populated areas.