The Plaquemines Port District in December purchased 550 acres of land, including 1.5 miles that fronts to the Mississippi River, as it looks to implement its 2010 master plan for developing a port and turning around the area’s economy.
Officials said facilities could sprout up along the river, including coal and container terminals, and logistics and industrial parks.
The property, which was purchased for $9.5 million from the Bank of Paris, was once considered a site for the Millenium Port, envisioned to be a large container port operated by the state of Louisiana. Officials more than a decade ago had determined that the state could capture more of the Gulf’s container traffic if there was a port closer to the mouth of the Gulf than New Orleans, but finding a river site with landside infrastructure proved difficult and the concept never materialized.
Port consultant John Vickerman helped develop the Plaquemines’ port master plan.
Existing coal, grain and liquid bulk terminals in the parish are all privately owned. The port district’s main job is to provide security and collect tariffs. The new facility, which would be publicly owned, is being marketed to potential tenants who would either lease property from the port or co-develop terminals, Dale Benoit, who is handling communications for the Plaquemines Port District, said.
Port officials say a statewide push to convince Congress to deepen the Mississippi River to 50 feet and the widening of the Panama Canal make it an opportune time to develop a new river port that can handle large vessels.
The terminal is primarily envisioned as a bulk facility, but could have space for container handling as well. A container terminal would complement the proposed Louisiana International Gulf Transfer Terminal (LIGTT) because the transshipment facility won’t have any land access and the Plaquemines property is close to a four-lane highway and rail line, he said.
The New Orleans Gulf Coast Railway has a railhead that ends six miles away, but would consider adding a spur to the port, Benoit said. The shortline connects to the six Class I railroads that serve New Orleans.
“No one sees this as taking business from other ports. It’s bringing additional business to the region,” Benoit said.
Plaquemines is getting serious about implementing the master plan. In addition to the land purchase, it hired Maynard “Sandy” Sanders in August as executive director. It previously changed its governance structure so the Plaquemines Parish Council operates as the port commission without the involvement of the Parish president and executive branch.