Ports & Terminals

Port Of New Orleans Sets New Container Record In 2019

LSU football wasn’t the only Louisiana team setting records in 2019. The Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) also set a new record for container handling in 2019, with a total of 648,538 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) moved last year.

That number marks a 10 percent jump compared to 2018. What’s more, the 2019 record marked the sixth consecutive year that Port NOLA has exceeded 500,000 TEUs at its Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal, which New Orleans Terminal and Ports America jointly operate.

“Port NOLA has now seen double-digit growth in total container volumes for two consecutive years, primarily driven by the Panama Canal expansion, exports form Louisiana’s booming petrochemical industry and a growing market for imports,” Port NOLA President and CEO Brandy Christian said. “Additionally, these record container numbers are balanced by significant loaded import growth, up 12 percent in 2019.”

Container growth at Port NOLA comes as the port continues to expand its network of carriers calling on New Orleans. In 2019, New Orleans gained a new direct service to Asia in the form of MSC’s Lone Star Express weekly call. With Lone Star Express, which is a partnership between Maersk and ZIM, New Orleans now has two direct Asia services. The other is CMA CGM’s PEX 3 service, a partnership with COSCO, Evergreen and OOCL.

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In total, Port NOLA has 12 weekly container services from three global alliances and independent carriers. Those 12 weekly calls connect Port NOLA to 60 global ports and more than 450 other destinations through connecting services.

In announcing its 2019 container growth, the port also highlighted the successful container-on-barge service between Memphis, Tenn., Baton Rouge, La., and New Orleans. The service repositions empty containers from Memphis to Baton Rouge, where they are loaded with plastic resins and moved to New Orleans for the export market. That service continues to grow and recently garnered a grant from the Maritime Administration for six purpose-built barges and the lease of a towboat.

According to Port NOLA, the growth in container handling has coincided with continued intermodal growth following the port’s 2018 acquisition of the New Orleans Public Belt, a regional short line railroad. In 2019, intermodal cargo grew by 20 percent, driven by a new Kansas City Southern direct line between New Orleans and Dallas. Besides the Dallas line with Kansas City Southern, New Orleans also features an intermodal connection by CN Railroad to Memphis, Chicago, Detroit and Toronto.

“Moving cargo between rail, river and road requires efficient coordination and a unified vision,” said Christian, who also serves as CEO of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad. “NOPB provides a significant competitive advantage and has resulted in true logistics integration of the New Orleans freight gateway.”

To meet the demands of recent and projected container growth, the port is pouring $100 million into an expansion plan that includes four new 100-foot-gauge container gantry cranes and other enhancements to its existing container terminal. Under the plan, the port will add significant capacity at the Napoleon Avenue terminal and will allow the port to service larger vessels more efficiently.

Christian said the cranes, expected to be operational in mid-2021, will keep the port competitive while also boosting the economy.

“An economic impact study found that just two additional cranes would create 1,147 jobs and $3.6 million in tax revenues for Louisiana,” she said.

Christian said it’s all about ensuring continued success for the port far into the future.

“Our future is that of a state-of-the-art integrated gateway that moves freight efficiently and meets the industry’s changing needs,” Christian said.