The Consul General of Ukraine in Houston, Texas, Vitalii Tarasiuk, traveled to south Louisiana at the end of August to meet with officials from both the Port of New Orleans and Port of South Louisiana, along with other business leaders and political officials.
The visit coincided with the 18th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall on August 29, 2005, in Plaquemines Parish near the town of Buras, with a second landfall near the mouth of the Pearl River in Hancock County, Miss.
According to the office of the Consulate General, the meetings sought to draw on the region’s experience recovering and rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina, along with other disasters, as Ukraine rebuilds infrastructure and communities destroyed during the Russian invasion.
“This unique expert experience should come in handy in the process of reconstruction of the southern regions of Ukraine, in particular the areas of Kherson region, which were flooded as a result of the submergence of the Kakhov Dam by Russian troops,” the Consulate General of Ukraine in Houston said in a statement.
During his visit to Louisiana, Taraskiuk met with Louisiana Secretary of Economic Development Don Pierson; Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston-Broome; Latoya Cantrell, mayor of New Orleans; New Orleans City Council Vice President Helena Moreno; GNO Inc. CEO Michael Hecht; Harrison Crabtree, director of the New Orleans World Trade Center; Port of New Orleans President and CEO Brandy Christian; and Paul Matthews, CEO of the Port of South Louisiana.
While in New Orleans, Tarasiuk and Cantrell discussed starting a partnership between the Crescent City and a city in southern Ukraine, according to the Consulate General’s office. During his time in New Orleans, Tarasiuk also visited the Academy of the Sacred Heart, a private Catholic school that has given “the opportunity of free education to four Ukrainian girls,” according to the office of the Consulate General.
Odessa And New Orleans
Tarasiuk and Christian met to discuss “forging a new cooperative understanding” between the Port of Odesa, Ukraine’s largest seaport, and the Port of New Orleans.
“This international collaboration marks the beginning of an exchange of expertise and best practices that will mutually benefit our vital maritime infrastructure,” the Port of New Orleans said in a statement.
Odesa, a Ukrainian port town located on the upper Black Sea coast, and other port cities and grain storage facilities across the country have been the target of Russian attacks of late, making vessel transits to and from Ukraine on the Black Sea sparse. The reversal is quite sharp from the 2021-2022 market year, when Ukraine ranked at or near the top in terms of global agricultural exports. According to the World Economic Forum, Ukraine exported nearly 5 million metric tons of sunflower oil, 23 million tons of corn, 19 million tons of wheat, 2.7 million tons of rapeseed and 5.8 million tons of barley during the year leading up to the start of the Russian invasion. Just in terms of the United Nations’ food assistance mission, 40 percent of its wheat was sourced from Ukraine prior to the war.
Similarly, the Port of South Louisiana is the focal point for more than 60 percent of the United States’ grain exports. That mission alignment served as the basis for a memorandum of understanding between the Port of South Louisiana and the Ukraine Sea Ports Authority (USPA), which Matthews and USPA executive Yurii Lytvyn signed during Tarasiuk’s visit. The “cooperative alliance” will focus on “technical guidance toward planning, development, construction, administration and operation and maintenance of port infrastructure, particularly when reconstruction begins in Ukraine,” according to the Port of South Louisiana.
“As two of the world’s leading grain exporters, the farmers and workers of the United States and Ukraine are tough and take pride in their role in feeding the world,” Matthews said. “This agreement solidifies Port of South Louisiana’s support for the Ukrainian people in the defense of their freedom and creates an alliance with our Ukrainian port partners that focuses on our shared mission of serving global customers and creating economic prosperity for our communities.”
While in Louisiana, Tarasiuk also met with the Louisiana Consul Corps of Ukraine, whom he “informed about the current situation on the front, the socio-economic situation in Ukraine and priority projects of Ukraine’s economic recovery,” according to the Consulate General’s office.
Caption for top photo: Port of South Louisiana President Paul Matthews and Vitalii Tarasiuk.