LaGrange Cites Double-Digit Cargo Growth, Economic Development Wins In Annual Address
Economic development wins, new services and expanded agreements have resulted in record operating revenues and strong, double-digit cargo growth in 2014, Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange said during the annual State of the Port Address hosted by the International Freight Forwarders and Customs Brokers Association of New Orleans today.
“Through a lot of hard work by your Port and with the help of Louisiana Economic Development under the guidance of Secretary Stephen Moret and many of our economic development partners, we’ve welcomed back long-time customers, corporate offices and new investment,” LaGrange said.
LaGrange cited the return of Chiquita to New Orleans after a 40-year absence, as an historic win for the maritime community. Chiquita’s first chartered vessel arrived at the Port’s Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal Oct. 21. Chiquita plans to ship as much as 80,000 TEUs per year through New Orleans – a more than 15 percent increase in current container volumes – and an estimated 300 new jobs.
“We believe those numbers could grow even greater as the new service will undoubtedly attract additional cargo on a north-south route,” LaGrange added.
Other developments included the agreement with TCI Plastics, which will enable the company to invest $36.5 million to grow its mega-plastics district, capturing cargo otherwise bound for outof-state export.
“This is significant for the region’s ability to add value to Louisiana-made products and export them through Louisiana ports,” LaGrange said. “The new 500,000 square-foot facility will create more than 180 jobs in the region and could add up to 30,000 TEUs annually through the Port.”
LaGrange also welcomed back International Shipholding, which announced in the spring the return of its headquarters to New Orleans and the 100 jobs it brings with it.
These announcements compliment strong cargo figures port-wide. For the first eight months of 2014, total general cargo was up 25 percent compared to a year ago, totaling 5.89 million tons, compared to 4.7 million tons for the same period a year ago.
Total port-wide cargo for the period was up 25.5 percent, topping 19.4 million tons, compared to 15.4 million tons for the same period one year ago.
Imported steel led the cargo gains, as tonnages rose 84.8 percent, totaling 2.209 million tons through August, compared to 1.19 million tons at this time last year. Other cargoes realized gains, such as imported forest products up 17.6 percent, natural rubber up 6.2 percent and poultry exports up nearly 6 percent.
Breakbulk cargo – or non-containerized and non-bulk cargo – was up 40 percent overall. Containerized cargo is also trending upward, as container traffic is up 7.16 percent for the first nine months of 2014. In the most recent 12 months (Oct. 2013 to Sept. 2014), the Port has handled 475,236 TEUs, compared to 443,752 TEUs for the same period one year ago.
“Business is bustling and with the announced projects set to come online shortly, we’ll only grow from here,” LaGrange said.
In the Port’s growing cruise division, there is also optimism, as the Port is poised to break the 1million passenger mark for the first time in 2014.
“That’s on the heels of three record passenger years,” LaGrange said. “We’re working with our cruise partners on long-term berthing contracts and industry confidence in the New Orleans market helped the largest cruise ship ever to home-port in New Orleans and the largest ship in Carnival’s fleet - the Carnival Dream - arrive in April.”
River cruising is poised to return on the scene in a big way within the next few years, with more players entering the market. The American Queen and the Queen of the Mississippi have both made their presence felt in the tourism circles of New Orleans and up the River as far as Ohio and beyond.
Port officials recently completed a multi-million-dollar upgrade to the Port’s Erato Street Cruise Terminal and are poised to break ground on the Port’s third cruise ship terminal at Poland Avenue in the first quarter of 2015. In 2013, Cruise Lines International Association determined New Orleans to be the sixth-largest cruise port in the U.S.
“And we hope to surpass that ranking in the years to come as blue-water and River cruising continue to grow and become more popular with the traveling public,” LaGrange said.
Tenants throughout the Port’s industrial properties continue to grow, as well. In the last year alone, seven new lease agreements were signed and all existing tenants who had options to renew in the last year opted to do so.
“The fact we’re retaining existing tenants, while attracting new ones bodes well as we continue to market the Port’s industrial properties,” LaGrange said.
In addition to cargo gains and cruise popularity, Port officials have diligently worked toward a more sustainable future. The Port’s environmental staff has joined forces with tenants and operators to maximize environmental performance and partnered with the University of New Orleans to track the Port’s progress.
“Today, we’re proud to announce the Port is the first maritime organization to join the Louisiana Environmental Leadership Program,” LaGrange said. “And, the Port is the newest member of Green Marine Initiative, an environmental certification program for the North American marine industry.”
With growth, however, comes challenges, LaGrange concluded.
“We must continue to identify the resources to build the infrastructure needed to promote efficient growth and take every opportunity to insert the maritime industry into public discussion,” LaGrange said. “Improved infrastructure on the dock, on our highways and throughout our waterways are important to us all. We must drive our message home to become the world-class hub of international commerce we all know we can be.”