Ports & Terminals

Nola Port Eyes Second Container Terminal

The board of commissioners of the Port of New Orleans took an initial step at its January 19 meeting toward studying the feasibility of building a second container terminal within the port’s three-parish jurisdiction.

The board voted to authorize Port of New Orleans President and CEO Brandy Christian to enter into a contract worth up to $300,000 with AECOM Technical Services Inc., to evaluate a large tract of land in St. Bernard Parish, just downriver from New Orleans on the east bank of the Mississippi River.

While the Port of New Orleans’ jurisdiction includes St. Bernard, the port, at present, does not operate in the parish.

The site, dubbed the Sinclair Tract, totals 675 acres and is located in the community of Meraux at river Mile 85.5. Owned by St. Bernard Parish-based nonprofit The Meraux Foundation, the site has already been studied and certified by Louisiana Economic Development (LED) for industrial use. Cattle dot the portion of the property nearer the river, while the upper portion is wooded.

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According to LED, the site offers about 3,300 linear feet of access to the Mississippi River and is about 1.4 miles deep. The site is bounded by the Mississippi River at the south, the St. Bernard Grove subdivision on the east, the Cypress Gardens subdivision on the west, and “thousands of acres of marshland” to the north, according to Louisiana Economic Development.

“The proposed concept indicates 1) a 150-acre riverside container terminal, 2) a 127-acre middle industrial park, and 3) a rear 398-acre business, research, value-added industrial, and distribution campus,” the LED site selection entry for the property says. “The tract could be buffered from adjacent land uses, and have planned quality growth. Alternative mixed land use concepts are also possible.”

The site benefits from a wealth of connectivity. The property sits about 21 miles from New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport. Norfolk Southern Railroad maintains a rail line along the river levee through the site, while the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad is just over 5 miles away. Interstate 10 is about 8 miles away and is accessible by way of Louisiana Highways 39, 46 and 47 and the Interstate 510 spur.

That connectivity, and the opportunity to build a facility from scratch, caught the attention of leaders at the Port of New Orleans. The port, partnering with AECOM, will spend the next year or so studying the development potential of the site, along with how a container facility would fit into the community.

“Our initial studies will help determine the site’s suitability for maritime purposes—as a container terminal and logistics park,” said Michelle Ganon, vice president of public affairs for the Port of New Orleans. “AECOM will determine potential berth capacity, the berth’s connectivity to the adjacent land, and terminal layout. Later studies will help determine transportation infrastructure investments needed to serve both the port and community effectively. Feasibility studies will encompass both the port’s and community needs. AECOM will be one of several consultants that will help us determine the overall feasibility of the project and its potential to contribute significant economic impacts to St. Bernard Parish.”

Ganon said that while a firm timeline and cost estimate is difficult to predict, developing the site into a functioning container terminal would be a years-long, $1 billion-plus project.

Napoleon Avenue Terminal

Exploring an additional container terminal in no way undermines the port’s Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal, Ganon said. That site handled more than 500,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) last year, with a current capacity of 840,000 TEUs per year. And the Napoleon Avenue terminal has room to grow, with an expansion plan to boost capacity to 1.6 million TEUs per year.

“Industry trends and planned infrastructure investment in our current container facilities at Napoleon will allow us to retain our competitive edge and comfortably serve carriers and shippers for the foreseeable future—fully optimizing operations at this location,” Ganon said.

And yet, the chance to build a new facility from scratch is an attractive possibility for the port, especially as it wraps up its Gateway Master Plan, which will cast a vision for the next 20 years.

“With additional container capacity served by an additional terminal, we will also be trade-ready for generations to come,” Ganon said. “Additionally, a logistics business park will give us both needed flexibility and more space so we can continue to successfully compete on a global scale.”

Ganon said a new facility would be a center for logistics activity, with transloading, warehousing, distribution and even light manufacturing all within a single site.

“A new container terminal downriver will allow Louisiana and the port complexes on the Lower Mississippi River opportunity to grow cargo volumes, capture new market segments and increase economic impacts statewide,” she said. “Additionally, the positive community impacts of this project will extend beyond the maritime industry and into every facet of life touched by global commerce.”

To view details on the site in St. Bernard Parish, go to LED’s website, www.opportunitylouisiana.com, and search for “The Sinclair Tract.”