The Port of New Orleans set records for container traffic and cruise passengers in 2012 – all while completing more than $100 million in new infrastructure projects port-wide.
Port of New Orleans President and CEO Gary LaGrange touted those achievements during the 26th Annual State of the Port Address today hosted by the International Freight Forwarders and Customs Brokers Association of New Orleans.
“During the last few years we have seen a major economic resurgence, as our City provides the right conditions to encourage economic development and business investments,” LaGrange told the more than 200 stakeholders gathered at the Marriott Convention Center. “The Port of New Orleans is a major contributor to providing those conditions and our business leaders understand our future is tied to international trade.”
To plan that future, LaGrange applauded state Sen. Conrad Appel for his efforts establishing the Louisiana Office of International Commerce, a 23-member board housed within the Louisiana Economic Development Office, created during the 2012 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature. The Board’s goal is to formulate a single vision for Louisiana’s trade community.
“This effort is the culmination of years of work, which will bring Louisiana ports, economic development officials and trade-based businesses together to provide a focus for the entire international trade community,” LaGrange said.
Those efforts will build upon recent investments made by the Board of Commissioners of the Port. In May, Gov. Bobby Jindal cut the ribbon on a $36.4 million investment in the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal, which added two new gantry cranes and 4.5 acres of container marshalling yard – bringing the terminal’s capacity to 640,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units per year. A week later, Port officials joined Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne to dedicate the Port’s new $20.1 million Julia Street Cruise Terminal, which more than doubled the Port’s cruise capacity.
In July, Gov. Jindal again joined Port officials to dedicate the $40.3 million Riverfront Cold Storage Facility at the Henry Clay Ave. Wharf. The 140,000 square-foot facility is now the largest blast-freeze operation in the Northern Hemisphere.
“That project is one of the most rewarding in my 36 years as a port director,” LaGrange said. “This state-of-the-art facility will generate $126 million in annual spending and add 125 direct jobs.”
In addition to investments in new projects, as of the end of the 2012 fiscal year, the Board had completed $94 million worth of repairs to facilities damaged by the storms of 2005.
“And I cannot leave out our customers and tenants, whose investments in equipment and facilities port-wide is sure to top the $100 million mark,” LaGrange said.
A few of those projects include Folgers’ $70 million investment to consolidate its operations from two other states in New Orleans; construction of 300,000 square feet of warehousing space for London Metal Exchange cargo and Transportation Consultants Inc. expansion at the Gov. Nicholls Street Wharf to provide value-added services for chemical exporters.
All of these investments, both public and private, increase opportunities for shippers within the Port and add to tonnage figures. LaGrange touted those cargo gains, as well.
In 2011, the Port handled a record 476,413 TEUs. Through the first six months of 2012, the Port handled 241,707 TEUs – outpacing last year’s figures for the same time period. So far in 2012, total general cargo is up 8.5 percent; buoyed by a 23 percent increase in break-bulk cargo. Double digit gains were realized in imported steel and aluminum and natural rubber imports are up more than 8 percent.
“Chemical products for export also saw a 6 percent gain so far in 2012, coming off a record year in 2011,” LaGrange said. “Those figures combined with a more than 3 percent increase in ship calls and your port is healthy and robust.”
New container services were also added in 2012, as CMA CGM and CSAV shipping lines added the Port to its Gulf Bridge Express to the Caribbean and Central and South American ports. ZIM Line returned service to New Orleans and recently Hamburg Sud announced a new service from New Orleans.
“Combined with previously existing carriers Hapag-Lloyd, Mediterranean Shipping Company, Seaboard Marine, Maesrk and Libra – the shipping opportunities from our container terminal are the best around,” LaGrange said.
Port officials are not resting on recent successes. Work will begin in 2013 on the Napoleon Avenue Intermodal Terminal to improve rail service and efficiency and capitalize on the six Class One railroads that service the Port. The project will be mostly funded by a $16.7 million TIGER grant the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the Port. It will transform a 12-acre site into a modern, freight rail terminal and create additional container storage area.
“I want to thank Louisiana’s entire Congressional delegation for supporting this vital project, as well as Mayor Mitch Landrieu,” LaGrange said. “All of their support was critical to being awarded the highly competitive grant.”
LaGrange highlighted a record year for the cruise industry, as well. In 2012, the Port welcomed two year-round Carnival Cruise Line ships – the Carnival Conquest sailing year-round seven-day itineraries and the Carnival Elation sailing four- and five-day itineraries. In addition, the Port welcomed Royal Caribbean’s 3,114-passenger Voyager of the Seas, the largest cruise ship to ever call on the Port, and Norwegian Cruise Line’s 2,018-passenger Norwegian Spirit. Both are replaced this year with newer and larger vessels, Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas and the Norwegian Star.
“2011 was a record year for the cruise industry in New Orleans and in 2012 we plan to break the 1-million-passenger mark,” LaGrange said. “New Orleans is a favorite home-port for the cruise industry and one of the fastest-growing cruise ports in the nation.”
According to Cruise Lines International Association, cruise line spending in Louisiana topped $280 million in 2011 – up 35 percent compared to the year before.
“And we believe we will far exceed that impact this year,” LaGrange said.
To build upon cruise gains, the Port plans to begin construction on a third cruise ship terminal at its Poland Avenue Wharf, just downriver from the historic French Quarter, in 2013.
“All of these efforts are with eyes focused on building toward future success,” LaGrange said. “We will continue to develop our container capacity; continue to build on our strengths as a break-bulk and heavy-lift hub for this nation; continue to see value-added services and warehousing investments along our Inner Harbor; and continue to attract visitors from throughout the nation who enjoy cruising from New Orleans.”