Gateway Of Opportunity
With the largest port system in the world, Louisiana is the gateway to 35 interior states through the Mississippi River system and to worldwide markets through the Gulf of Mexico. Millions of tons of diverse cargo travel through six deepwater and 33 shallow-draft ports every year. The state’s extensive intermodal transportation network of railroads, barges, interstates, highways and airports ensures raw materials and finished products reach their final destinations efficiently.
Five of the country’s top 15 ports by tonnage are located in Louisiana, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Number one is the Port of South Louisiana, with a throughput of more than 212 million tons of cargo annually, including 60 percent of all grain in the U.S. The state’s six deepwater ports are the Ports of New Orleans, Lake Charles, South Louisiana, Greater Baton Rouge, St. Bernard and Plaquemines.
Each is experiencing significant growth. At the Port of New Orleans, container volume has almost doubled in the last five years, the result of increased demand from the petrochemical and agribusiness sectors, reports Port of New Orleans Director of Marketing Bobby Landry. Port of South Louisiana Executive Director Joel Chaisson said the port is engaged in an ambitious growth program to build a new dock, improve infrastructure and absorb nearby St. John the Baptist Parish Airport. One of the biggest grain terminals in the country is under construction at the Port of Lake Charles. At the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, the new regional Maritime Security Operations Center, a grain terminal expansion and other infrastructure improvement projects are under way.
Other deepwater ports have evolved to serve specific subsectors. New Orleans attracts diverse business—from cruise ship passengers to steel and rubber. It is also a world leader in coffee imports and features 14 coffee warehouses, modern bulk processing operations, more than 5.5 million feet of storage space and six roasting facilities in a 20-mile radius. The northernmost location in the state for deep-draft navigation, the Port of Greater Baton Rouge handles diverse cargo. When vessels access the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, they shorten trips to Houston by 180 miles. Lake Charles specializes in grain and raw materials, while the Port of South Louisiana’s cargo includes crude oil, petrochemicals and agriculture products.
“It can’t be overemphasized enough, the value of the state’s deepwater ports,” said the Port of South Louisiana’s Joel Chaisson. “Being at the intersection of the Gulf of Mexico gives us unmatched access to domestic and world markets.”
This article was edited on February 28, 2013.