Ports & Terminals

Port Of South Louisiana Sees First Tonnage Growth In Six Years

The Port of South Louisiana (PortSL) saw its year-over-year tonnage numbers surge by close to 10 million short tons in 2022, marking the first time since 2017 the port has recorded a net increase in cargo handled.

In 2021, the port recorded just short of 229.8 million short tons of cargo. In 2022, that number was 239,257,758. Soybeans accounted for more than 42.2 million tons of cargo in 2022, a 14 percent increase over the previous year. Wheat was up 20 percent, with 3.3 million tons. In terms of agriculture products, animal feed saw the largest jump in 2022, notching a 29 percent growth to 8.6 million tons.

Crude oil eclipsed 50 million tons in 2022, marking a 16 percent increase, while petrochemicals grew 15 percent to reach 41.5 million tons.

The Port of South Louisiana’s aggregates business more than doubled, with 2,520,908 tons of concrete and stone products handled in 2022.

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“The numbers do not lie—Port of South Louisiana has reversed a 6-year trend and is finally growing,” said PortSL CEO Paul Matthews. “Our commission, staff and I are constantly thinking outside the box and taking tremendous steps to maximize our growth and operate at optimal levels.”

Matthews said the port is looking to build on one of its longtime strengths—grains—while also seeking to innovate for the future.

“With plans to construct the state’s first grain elevator in 40 years and the prospects of owning Louisiana’s greatest industrial icon, Avondale Global Gateway, the Port of South Louisiana is on track to reach new heights, attract good paying jobs and make Louisiana and America more competitive in the ever-changing shipping markets,” he said.

The port owes some of its growth in 2022 to world events, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupting grain shipments from two of the world’s largest grain producers and placing more of a demand on U.S. grain exports. The port’s cargo growth came despite the record-setting low water seen last year on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. About 60 percent of American grains bound for overseas markets moves through the seven grain elevators in the Port of South Louisiana’s jurisdiction.

PortSL also ranks second nationally among energy transfer ports.

Despite the global and national challenges last year, the port still saw progress on projects to innovate and expand capacity. In September 2022, the U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded a $50 million federal grant to H2theFuture, a partnership of 25 Louisiana organizations, including the Port of South Louisiana. The partnership will promote development of hydrogen energy production and use in south Louisiana, including a hydrogen fueling barge, which will be located at the Port of South Louisiana.

In August 2022, port leaders, along with state legislators, Louisiana Multimodal Commerce Commissioner Renee Lapeyrolerie, St. James Parish President Peter Dufresne and Associated Terminals President Todd Fuller, dedicated two new Koncrane harbor cranes to enhance throughput and cargo handling efficiency at the port’s Globalplex Intermodal Terminal dock.

PortSL commission chairman Ryan Burks said the port set the tone for the year when it hired Matthews in January 2022.

“When our commission hired Mr. Matthews a little over a year ago, we challenged him to establish a culture that nurtures growth and embraces concepts and ideas that equip the port to thrive in an evolving marketplace,” Burks said. “This course correction from annual losses to an increase of 10 million tons in just one year’s time is a testament to Paul’s leadership and our staff’s dedication to attracting foreign and domestic cargo and investment to the Port of South Louisiana.”