Port Nola Commissioners Discuss Avondale Plan

The Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans convened a special meeting September 20 to consider approval of a cooperative endeavor agreement (CEA) between the port, the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad Corporation, Jefferson Parish and Avondale Marine LLC “to facilitate the redevelopment of the former Avondale Shipyard.”

T. Parker Host Inc. and Hilco Global, which are operating under the Avondale Marine name, are in talks to purchase and redevelop the site, which is owned by Huntington Ingalls Industries. Shuttered in 2014, Avondale Shipyard dates to the 1930s and boasted a peak employment of more than 25,000 people. At one time, Avondale was the largest employer in the state of Louisiana.

According to Louis Colletta, general counsel for the Port of New Orleans, the multipart agreement sought to place Avondale Marine within the jurisdiction of the port, establish tariffs for ships calling on the future terminal, endorse the development of a container-on-barge service at the terminal, and commit both the port and the port-owned New Orleans Public Belt Railroad (NOPB) to developing a rail spur that would serve the terminal.

The parties involved had been developing language for the cooperative endeavor agreement for weeks, and the port’s board of commissioners’ meeting was called to consider a draft CEA that had been finalized on September 19. However, shortly before the 1:30 p.m. special meeting, the port received an updated draft of the CEA with what Colletta described as “substantial disagreement on the tariff section.”

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Port commissioners balked at approving a CEA with yet-to-be-reviewed language pertaining to tariffs at the terminal, and yet commissioners understood swift action was a must. According to comments made by commissioners and Port of New Orleans President and CEO Brandy Christian at the meeting, Avondale Marine had hoped to close on the sale of the property last week, with hopes that the CEA would help the closing come to fruition.

With that in mind, the board unanimously passed a motion that authorized Christian to issue a jurisdictional permit to Avondale Marine to operate a terminal within the jurisdiction of the Port of New Orleans. Commissioners said every other terminal within the jurisdiction of the port operates under that same type of permit. The board also approved the non-binding adoption of the September 19 draft of the cooperative endeavor agreement, granting Christian authority to negotiate a final version. The board of commissioners will consider a binding CEA at some point in the future.

Commissioners and Christian alike were fast to express their wholehearted support of Avondale Marine’s effort to purchase and redevelop the site.

“As we have worked through this process with the potential buyers, Hilco and Host, they have laid out an expectation and plan that the activities [at Avondale] will be additive, including manufacturing, distribution, opportunity to drive new cargoes to the market,” Christian said. “We very much welcome that vitality.”