Backers of offshore mega-port ready to seek permits; port of N.O - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Backers of offshore mega-port ready to seek permits; port of N.O. responds

Backers of offshore mega port cut cake in celebration. (FOX 8 Photo) Backers of offshore mega port cut cake in celebration. (FOX 8 Photo)
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

A cake shaped like an offshore deep-water transfer terminal was sliced along the riverfront in celebration of the proposed Mega-Port project that has picked up steam. Those behind the project said Monday afternoon they are ready to get the first phase of the project going.

The waters of the Gulf of Mexico lap at Louisiana’s coastline, and some see it as an opportunity to for needed development.

“It's about bringing people back, providing them jobs, high paying jobs, good jobs,” said Sen. A.G. Crowe, who serve as President of the La. International Deepwater Gulf Transfer Terminal which was created by the Legislature in 2008.

Supporters of the “Mega-Port” project will file for construction permits in the next few days. Crowe said it is needed to protect and expand jobs tied to the maritime industry in light of the widening of the Panama Canal.

"What this project is outside the [Mississippi] river, so that regardless of how big the ships get they will be able to unload their cargo in Louisiana, and then we'll feed them up in other vessels up the river to other ports,” Crowe said.

The first phase involves a dry bulk terminal set 3 miles off the coast of Plaquemines Parish and 20 miles south of Venice. It will cost at least $25 million, and private industry has stepped up to secure the funds.

"The trickle-down effect will be amazing. It'll be thousands of jobs that's going to be created by this project,” said Plaquemines Parish President Amos Cormier.

Ultimately, all phases of the offshore port would cost $10 billion. And backers bill it as a facility that will strengthen use of the U.S. maritime system. And in the post-9/11 world, they said having offshore mega-ports makes sense from a security standpoint.

"If you had offshore ports, offshore on the West Coast, offshore on the East Coast and, yes, one even in the Gulf of Mexico. As those smart bombs might come in they wouldn't detonate and destroy a whole city, they might detonate and destroy the offshore port,” said Tom Thornhill, co-manager of the project.

The offshore port project raises the question of competition with the thriving Port of New Orleans?”

"No, this is actually to protect jobs and the economic development that's been going on at the Port of New Orleans for many years to come. Simply because of the fact that when the ships get so big they can't get to the mouth, we don't want them to go to Texas, we don't want them to go other states, we want to figure out a way to get them in,” Crowe said.

The port apparently is not convinced of that and released the following statement:

“We wish LIGTT luck in this first phase of development of a dry bulk transfer terminal. However, there are aspects to the overall scope of LIGTT's development that could represent duplicity in the State. We don't see the feasibility in duplicating what is already in existence with plans to expand. Louisiana's present and future container operations are at the Port of New Orleans. Funding of more than $300 million has been invested in the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal, which is served by six class one railroads - more than any other seaport in the United States - with a new $25.1 million intermodal transfer terminal currently under construction. Future plans call for the terminal to be expanded to a capacity of 1.5 million TEUs.”

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