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Upbeat mood as New Orleans invests in growth

Private funding sought for Phase 3 of terminal expansion

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Despite the sagging economy and some challenging water levels upstream, the Port of New Orleans is growing, with new cruise and cargo services, new facilities, new cranes and a major Mississippi River Intermodal Terminal.

In March the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans notified AECOM Technical Services Inc. to begin the design of the port’s new Mississippi River Intermodal Terminal project on an existing 12-acre rail yard that now serves the adjacent Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal.

The new rail yard will be reconfigured and modernised into an efficient intermodal container transfer facility (ICTF). This will be funded primarily from a $16.7 million federal transportation grant received last year for improvements to the Napoleon Avenue Intermodal Terminal. Construction will begin in December 2013 and is expected to be completed in 12 months.

Stimulate

Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange said: “The Port of New Orleans is the only U.S. seaport with six Class One railroads serving it, which includes 132,000 miles of connecting rail tracks. This critical project will facilitate the movement of marine and rail cargo, stimulate international commerce and enhance safety, all while reducing the carbon footprint of the regional and national transportation systems. The entire maritime community is thrilled to see this project come to fruition and I want to thank the entire Louisiana congressional delegation for their unwavering support.”

He had words of praise for U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter; U.S. Representatives Cedric Richmond, Steve Scalise, John Fleming, Rodney Alexander, Bill Cassidy and Charles Boustany; and former U.S. Representative Jeff Landry, all of whom wrote letters of support for the project to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

The Port of New Orleans, and the Louisiana Port Construction and Development Priority Programme, are matching a portion of the federal grant to build an adjacent four-acre container marshalling yard at the upriver end of the Louisiana Avenue Terminal. The Board awarded a $3.7 million construction contract to Hard Rock Construction LLC, of Metairie, Louisiana, for the new paved yard. Construction began on the marshalling yard this month and is expected to be completed by December. 

Overall cost for the two projects is put at $26 million. They are expected to create 100 permanent marine and cargo handling jobs and over 280 temporary construction-related jobs.

Partners wanted

Meanwhile, the Port of New Orleans is seeking private funds to help complete the third phase of the $250 million Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal expansion. 

Port spokesman Matt Gresham said future partners could include terminal operators, shipping companies and private investment groups. The final expansion phase is intended to double the port’s annual container capacity to 1.6 million teu. The Napoleon Avenue terminal can handle 640,000 teu; the intermodal rail yard scheduled for completion next year will add another 200,000.

Mr. Gresham said: “Hopefully we can get at least a foot in the door this year, including some funding for planning and design. I would consider that a success. Hopefully the budget situation improves over the next several years and the state can begin to reinvest in infrastructure.”

To that end, he said the port would soon consider proposals from three financial consultants to help assess the terminal’s value and refine options.

Mr. Gresham said that in the past two years the port had acquired and installed two new gantry cranes, the largest in the port’s history. These newer cranes were built in South Korea by Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co. Ltd. at a cost of $29.5 million. They have a lift capacity of 65 long tons, a lift height of 110 ft. and an outreach of 167 ft. Fully deployed, the cranes can reach across 19 containers, about the size of the Emma Maersk. This compares with a maximum outreach of 15 containers for the four cranes that have been supplemented by the new units.

Cold storage

The port has also completed the relocation of New Orleans Cold Storage, which was compelled to dray its frozen cargo to a wharf that could accommodate deep-draught vessels destined for Russia, Albania and other ports in the eastern European trade lanes.

New Orleans Cold Storage was granted a port leasehold property at Henry Clay Wharf, with the port covering construction and leaseback of the required warehouse and refrigeration equipment.

The new facility includes a 147,000 sq. ft. warehouse capable of storing 35 million pounds of product at between 15 and 40 degrees and blast-freezing 1.2 million pounds of product in 20 hours or less.

New Orleans Cold Storage Construction provides 230 jobs and created 120 new permanent jobs when it opened in June 2012.

New services

The ongoing improvement at the Napoleon terminal has already brought significant results. CMA CGM, the world’s third-largest container shipping company, and Compañía Sud Americana de Vapores (CSAV) have added New Orleans to the Gulf Bridge Express service, linking the Gulf Coast to the Caribbean and ports in Central and South America.

Antilles Guyane, Vice President of CMA, said: “The upgrading of this service allows CMA CGM to strengthen its coverage of the U.S. Gulf and the Caribbean, where its network is already significant, broadening the scope of the service for its customers. The direct call to New Orleans provides new opportunities for CMA CGM imports as well as exports through our dedicated hub of Kingston, Jamaica.”

Commencing last autumn, CMA CGM began calling at the port’s Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal with weekly rotations including New Orleans; Altamira and Veracruz, Mexico; Kingston, Jamaica; Cartagena, Colombia; and Puerto Cabello and LaGuaria, Venezuela.

“This new service strengthens New Orleans’ connections to Central and South American markets,” said the President and CEO of the Port of New Orleans.

Cruise

Major cruise lines have been attracted to the port. In 2012 passenger embarkations and disembarkations topped 975,000 passengers, setting a new port record. On 9th March this year Carnival Cruise lines announced a three-year extension of its berthing agreement with the Port of New Orleans to keep two Carnival ships sailing year-round until 12th February 2016. The agreement includes two one-year options to extend.

Part of the agreement continues New Orleans’ relationship with the 2,052-passenger Carnival Elation, which will continue sailing four-day and five-day cruises to Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico.

Homeport

Also sailing from New Orleans is the 2,974-passenger Carnival Conquest. Beginning in November 2013, New Orleans will become the homeport for the Carnival Sunshine, currently undergoing a $155 million refurbishment.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s 2,348-passengerNorwegian Star replaced the 2,018-passenger Norwegian Spirit as the line’s homeported ship in New Orleans. And Royal Caribbean’s 3,114-passenger Navigator of the Seas replaced the cruise line’s Voyager of the Seas. In autumn 2013 Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas will be replaced by a new ship, Serenade of the Seas. Norwegian Cruise Line will also replace the Norwegian Star with the Norwegian Jewel in 2013.