NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Port of New Orleans released new statistics today that reflect a surge in the cruise ship industry and container shipping.
Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange made the announcement during the 29th Annual State of the Port Address Tuesday hosted by the International Freight Forwarders and Customs House Brokers Association of New Orleans.
"It's another milestone that comes on the heels of four record years in a row," LaGrange said. "We anticipate continued growth in our container market, along with a robust breakbulk and project cargo market, as we recently set 14-year highs in tonnage moved over Port docks."
The most recent 12-month container data through September found the Port handled a 13.6 percent increase over the same period one-year ago.
Those figures reflect a more than doubling of container volume in the Central American trade lane through September, buoyed by banana imports and paper and chemical exports.
In addition, the latest breakbulk cargo data through May 2015, illustrates a more than 15 percent growth in breakbulk tons, led by an 18.7 percent increase in imported steel.
"While we expect some softening in the imported steel market this fall, we anticipate the investment boom in the chemical and petrochemical industry on the Lower Mississippi River will spur continued growth for the future," LaGrange said.
Chemical and petrochemical companies have announced more than $81 billion in investments in new and expansion projects in Louisiana, leading experts to predict chemical exports could triple as these projects are completed and come online in the coming years.
A historic milestone was also met in the Port's cruise industry this year.
More than 1-million cruise passengers passed through the Port's cruise terminals, as new and larger ships found a home port in the Crescent City. The calendar-year total for 2014 was 1,014,325 passengers.
"We set our goal to surpass the 1-million-passenger-mark a few years ago," LaGrange said. "Well, we did it thanks to our valued cruise partners, a strong marketing effort and continued investment into first-class facilities."
And those figures could rise again, as Carnival Cruise Line will increase its capacity for its four- and five-day year-round itineraries by 34-percent in April when the Carnival Elation is replaced by the Carnival Triumph. Port officials will also welcome 19 cruise ship ports of call to New Orleans from seven different ships and five cruise lines over the next year.
"A third cruise terminal at Poland Avenue is expected to be completed in late 2017," LaGrange said. "That project will free berthing space for additional home-ported cruise ships and allow us to aggressively market New Orleans as a unique port of call."
River cruising is also growing in New Orleans, as American Cruise Line will add a third sternwheeler to its home-ported New Orleans fleet when the America joins ACL's Queen of the Mississippi and American Eagle in April. ACL's expansion is in addition to Viking River Cruises plan to establish its first North American homeport in New Orleans by 2017.
The Port's industrial real estate portfolio is producing strong results, as well.
"In the years since the closure of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, we have worked to re-image that property into an international logistics hub with firms adding value to cargo right here in New Orleans," LaGrange said. "Today, we have 42 leases covering about 500 acres and generating $6 million in annual revenue – nearly double the revenue from when the MR-GO was open to deep-draft shipping."
Due to the more than $14 billion invested by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the New Orleans area on surge barriers and armored levees the Port's property along the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal is the only surge protected waterfront property on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, LaGrange added.
"Interest in those properties remains strong and we anticipate more growth to come," LaGrange said.
With every sector of the Port's business portfolio realizing strong results, Port officials have reinvested in smart growth through its environmental efforts. The Port's environmental services department successfully implemented an environmental program, resulting in the Port of New Orleans becoming only the 8th U.S. port to earn Green Port certification from Green Marine. The voluntary environmental certification program is a rigorous and transparent initiative that addresses key environmental issues in the maritime industry.
In the next year, the Port will update its economic impact report and will soon embark on an ambitious new master plan to determine the best investments and facilities as new cargo trends impact our industry.