More New Orleans services returning to normal
Business has significantly increased at the Port of New Orleans this week, with vessel calls doubling, most of the operations of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad back to normal, and Seaboard Marine set to resume its Central America service Sunday.
Port officials said nine ships, including four containerships, will have called the port by Friday. Stevedoring services have said they expect to work multiple ships in the next two weeks.
'All the hard work put in by the entire port community in the days following hurricanes Katrina and Rita is paying off remarkably surprising dividends,' said Gary LaGrange, port president and chief executive officer. 'We have met all of our goals and benchmarks we set to get the port back up and running.
Officials said one of the key gains has been resumption of regular services by the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad (NOPB) to five of the six Class I railroads that normally operate in New Orleans. The public railroad provides the link between the major rail lines and port facilities.
Jim Bridger, NOPB's general manager, said 90 percent of the NOPB was operational as of this week, notably with the reopening Monday of the service from Poland Avenue to the France Road Container Terminal. The only portion of the railroad that remains out of service is the segment north of Florida Avenue to Almonaster Avenue in New Orleans East, and service to the CG Railway, a rail-on-ship ferry service that normally moves up to 25,000 rail cars a year between New Orleans and Coatzacoalcos, Mexico.
The rail operations north of Florida Avenue are still under several feet of water and could take eight weeks to repair, the port said.
Seaboard said its vessel, the Seaboard Explorer, was set to sail Sunday from New Orleans to Honduras, Guatemala and Belize, with inland service available to Nicaragua and El Salvador.
Seaboard did note that because of difficulties obtaining local trucking services, it is not yet accepting breakbulk cargoes at New Orleans, limiting its operations to container bookings. Customers must deliver their cargoes directly to the P&O Terminal on Napoleon Avenue, Seaboard said, with a cut-off time of close-of-business on Fridays.
The Seaboard office for New Orleans, located in Metairie, is partially open. Other Seaboard employees normally based in New Orleans are working from Houston and other Seaboard offices.