Ports & Terminals

Partnerships Bring Plaquemines Container Terminal Closer To Reality

The Plaquemines Port, Harbor & Terminal District (Plaquemines Port) is one step closer to turning dirt on its proposed container terminal near Mile 50 on the right descending bank of the Lower Mississippi River, following the announcement that agreements are now in place for land and rail connectivity for the hoped-for terminal.

The port’s exclusive development partner, LA23 Development Company, now has a land-use agreement with the owner of the 1,000-acre site where Plaquemines Port plans to build its new container terminal. In addition, the port and LA23 have a deal in place for a company called Sustainability Partners (SP) to design rail connections for the site.

“This is an exciting first step toward the project,” said Chris Fetters, CEO of LA23 Development Company. “Rail is a vital component to the success of the terminal, and we are looking forward to the partnership with Sustainability Partners.”

The Plaquemines Port’s governing authority gave Sustainability Partners the notice to proceed in late July. That $50 million project will allow SP to begin linking the planned port campus with a north-south rail line that runs through the parish. That 10-mile extension will connect the proposed terminal to the Class I railroads that converge on the New Orleans area, including Union Pacific and BNSF, which both have bases of operation on the west bank of the river.

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“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with Plaquemines Port,” said SP CEO Tom Caine. “This extension project best fits our business model of working with public agencies.”

According to the port, planning, engineering and permitting for the rail extension should take between one year and 18 months. After that, construction of the spur is expected to take six to nine months.

Sandy Sanders, executive director of Plaquemines Port, said the port’s strength lies in its ability to forge partnerships between public entities and private companies.

“Our development partners provide us the flexibility to leverage our opportunity with the private financing strategic elements of the project without asking the state of Louisiana for any funding of our $1 billion project,” Sanders said.

The site for the proposed container terminal offers 8,200 linear feet of Mississippi River frontage. Plaquemines Port plans to oversee construction of a container facility able to service container vessels with capacities up to 22,000 TEUs. According to the port, the facility will be powered by natural gas, which will allow port equipment to use electric-drive power, rather than conventional diesel-drive motors.

The port is in the midst of a 120-day due diligence period with APM Terminals, the likely terminal operator, to determine the market potential and financial feasibility of the project.

The centerpiece of the planned terminal is how containers will be moved inland. The port has an agreement in place with American Patriot Holdings, which plans to build a fleet of self-propelled inland container vessels the likes of which have never been seen on the nation’s waterways. The vessels will be able to move up to 2,375 TEUs upriver at 13 mph. APH has forged partnerships with ports and terminals along the Mississippi River to establish a hub-and-spoke network for distributing containers throughout the nation’s heartland. APH has a smaller “hybrid” vessel, with a capacity of 1,800 TEUs, which will be able to transit locks on the Upper Mississippi River and tributaries. 

Port officials have said, once permits and funding are in place, the first phase of construction for the terminal will take up to two years.