LOUISIANA is expected to become the next hot container gateway to the US market, with plans for two neighbouring large box terminals moving forward.
The largest container terminal operator in the US, Ports America, and MSC have pledged US$800 million to a $1.8 billion container facility project at the port of New Orleans, reports London's Loadstar.
The proposed Louisiana International Terminal - a public-private partnership between the two companies, the state of Louisiana and the port of New Orleans - should bring capacity of 2 million TEU to the port. Construction is supposed to kick off in 2025, with the first berth due to open in 2028.
The site is just three miles from Plaquemines, where a consortium of private developers - including Plaquenimes Port and APM Terminals - intends to build a container terminal.
Either of these planned facilities would mark a steep step up from the current container infrastructure at New Orleans. Owing to restrictions due to a bridge, the port's box facilities at Napoleon Road cannot serve vessels larger than 10,000 TEU. The new terminals would be able to accommodate much larger ships and would have better rail connections to the interior.
Brian Harold, managing director of APM Terminals Mobile, stressed the importance of being able to handle ultra-large container vessels. To that end, both the ports at Mobile and Houston are dredging their channels to 15.25 metres, which the port of New Orleans recently completed, he pointed out.
The plans augur a drastic change for the port of New Orleans. It has serviced container operations for years, but its historical focus has been on bulk and breakbulk traffic, mostly exports coming down the Mississippi River, noted Bob Imbriani, executive vice president international at forwarder Team Worldwide.
The ports in the US Gulf area could be a viable area of development, but historically their potential has been hampered by lack of box carrier operations, he explained.
The Louisiana state government is eager to change that. It has offered $50 per TEU/$100 per FEU to importers bringing in goods through the port of New Orleans that are tied to new or expanded distribution centres, among other incentives.
Container traffic through the US Gulf ports has surged over the past year as importers switched flows from Asia from the west coast in case they got delayed by congestion or a work stoppage as the west coast terminal operators and labour groups were embroiled in contract negotiations. As a result, container volumes at the port of Houston were up 26 per cent in September.
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