New Orleans Announces ‘Wins’ in 2018 State of the Port Address

Brandy Christian

Brandy D. Christian, Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) President and CEO, and New Orleans Public Belt Railroad Corporation (Rail NOLA) CEO, highlighted the successes and challenges of the agency’s diverse business profile in 2018 at the annual State of the Port address Oct. 17 hosted by the International Freight Forwarders & Customs Brokers Association of New Orleans. Christian also outlined key short- and long-term strategies to capitalize on current momentum and galvanize the gateway for future success.

According to Christian, Port NOLA is on target to surpass 1 million cruise passenger movements for the fifth consecutive year in 2018, thanks in part to ocean and river cruise lines homeporting newer and larger ships in New Orleans.

Disney Cruise Line recently announced its first ship ever to be homeported in Louisiana with six homeport calls in 2020 by the Disney Wonder.

Next month, Port NOLA will welcome the largest cruise ship in both length and passenger occupancy to sail from New Orleans when the 3,963-passenger Norwegian Breakaway arrives replacing the Norwegian Pearl. Next fall, the sister ship, the Norwegian Getaway, will replace the Breakaway.

Royal Caribbean returns to New Orleans in December 2018 to homeport the Vision of the Seas. Carnival will increase capacity on its short cruise program in 2019 by replacing the Carnival Triumph with the Valor. And in 2019, the Carnival Glory takes over the seven-day itinerary of the Carnival Dream.

Earlier this month, American Cruise Lines increased its presence by launching the first modern riverboat in the U.S. on the Mississippi River, the American Song. The second modern riverboat in the company’s series, American Harmony, will take over on the Mississippi River in 2019 replacing the Song.

Christian said Port NOLA’s cruise sector reinforces the tourism industry, and local small and medium businesses in New Orleans. “Ninety percent of cruise passengers travel from out-of-state, 73 percent spend a day or two in New Orleans either before or after their cruise, and 75 percent report making a purchase in the Crescent City,” Christian explained. “These passengers generate over 306,000 rooms a night in New Orleans-area hotels.”

Port NOLA is even stronger on the cargo side. This year it expects to handle 30,000 containers and are working with Louisiana Economic Development and the U.S. Maritime Administration to expand the service, according to Christian. She said: “Aside from repositioning equipment, container-on-barge capability reduces congestion impacts on our roadways and gates, and has become a key strategy for managing our growth in an environmentally friendly way.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently cleared the way to ensure larger ships can access ports on the Lower Mississippi River by approving dredging to 50 feet at the mouth of the river.

Breakbulk cargo, sensitive to manufacturing trends and economic fluctuations, experienced erratic trends in 2018. Preliminary data indicate breakbulk imports declined 30 percent Fiscal Year 2018 versus 2017 in large part due to trade policies involving tariffs imposed on steel and aluminum.

Imported rubber continues to be a bright spot and the Port continues to look for export opportunities, and has seen significant increases in exported logs and frac sand.

Christian said despite the current challenges, breakbulk is still vital to the Port’s growth and contributes to the diverse business profile.

“We are continuing to invest in our breakbulk facilities, including $50 million in our breakbulk wharves, so we can continue to serve as a top U.S. import port for rubber, steel, aluminum and other non-ferrous metals,” she said.

Christian also highlighted data from an economic impact study that underscored Port NOLA as an economic catalyst for the region.

Christian added that Port NOLA’s growth and success is fueled by people including the Port’s Board of Commissioners, employees, tenants, stakeholders, and economic development and community partners.

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