The Port of New Orleans is a step closer to realizing another new, modern cruise ship terminal at the Julia Street Wharf after the Board of Commissioners took action today to forge ahead with an agreement with the Louisiana Department of Transportation’s Port Priority Program.
The $9 million project to combine two existing terminals into one state-of-the-art facility received the state program’s highest approval rating during the 2009 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature. The state will invest $8.1 million into the project, with the remaining $900,000 coming from the Port.
“The improved Julia Street Cruise Terminal will make New Orleans more attractive and more available to cruise lines looking to expand their home port options, as it will double our capacity to handle multiple ships at one time,” said Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange. “The close proximity of our terminals to the historic French Quarter and other nearby attractions, and the tourism lure of New Orleans itself, makes cruising from New Orleans like two vacations in one. We are confident that this selling point combined with the renovated terminal will attract new, home-ported cruise ships to our Port.”
Construction will reconfigure two existing smaller ship terminals into one larger terminal to attract the industry’s largest vessels. The interior of the terminal will be renovated, building a new vertical circulation core with an elevator and two escalators and installing an elevated, articulating and climate-controlled passenger bridge similar to the bridge in place at the Port’s Erato Street Cruise Terminal. The bridge will allow the industry’s largest cruise ships to simultaneously load and unload passengers and supplies in a safe and efficient manner. The project, which will increase the Port’s cruise ship terminal capacity by 100 percent, is anticipated to create 150 new jobs and generate $169.5 million annually for the region’s economy.
Currently, the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy sails four- and five-day Western Caribbean itineraries from the Port year-round. However, in November Carnival Cruise Lines will expand its capacity in the Crescent City by 34 percent when the 2,758-passenger Carnival Triumph replaces the Carnival Fantasy. The cruise ship will re-introduce the seven day western Caribbean cruise and will also offer a new seven-day eastern Caribbean itinerary, which visits Key West, Fla.; and Freeport and Nassau, Bahamas.
The Port and Norwegian Cruise Line recently inked a new long-term agreement, which allows NCL to homeport one of its Freestyle Cruising ships in New Orleans through Oct. 31, 2014. Currently, the Norwegian Spirit offers seven-day western Caribbean cruises from New Orleans seasonally – November through April.
Today, the Board also approved a measure to apply for a $65 million federal grant to fund infrastructure improvements at the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal and Louisiana Avenue Complex. The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, made $1.5 billion available to transportation projects nationwide.
The Port’s application hopes to garner funding for the Mississippi River Intermodal Terminal and Yard Improvements project. The project includes converting a small, existing intermodal rail yard into a modern, efficient near-dock facility between the existing Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal and the Louisiana Avenue Terminal. The project also calls for additional concrete marshalling yards at these two terminals, which will facilitate the movement of both containerized and general cargo. The project, which will generate new permanent maritime and rail transportation employment, is shovel-ready and can be completed in 36 months.
“This project will greatly enhance transportation efficiency by diverting containers and other general cargo from highway trucks to rail and marine modes of transportation,” LaGrange said. “It would also diminish the Port’s carbon footprint and increase overall efficiency of transportation services in southeast Louisiana and the Port’s mid-American service area.”