Port of New Orleans looking to expand into St. Bernard Parish

(WVUE) - The Port of New Orleans wants to expand into St. Bernard Parish. They've proposed building a state-of-the-art container shipyard in Meraux between Judge Perez Drive and St. Bernard Highway.

"One of the nice things about this whole thing is we are already working with financial partners, and we are already talking about private industry contributing up to $300 million toward this project," said Michelle Ganon with the Port of New Orleans.

The more than billion-dollar project is in its early stages. A feasibility study is now being done.

"Our job one is to continue to invest in our current container facilities, and that is happening, but again, while we want to be ready when that market demand materializes and we do know with the great increase in production in petro chemicals and the demand for that, the export potential, we really do need to be ready to handle that," said Ganon.

"From what I understand, the new deepwater super ships that are going to be coming in cannot get past the bridge with these large stacks of containers on them, so St. Bernard Parish is a perfect spot for them. We have a wait and see attitude to see if St. Bernard Parish feels the same way," said St.Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis.

McInnis says the initial response from neighbors in the area has been negative.

"As elected leadership in St.Bernard Parish, we're all taking the approach of wait and see and to make sure that if this project goes forward, that it does not negatively impact the citizens of St. Bernard Parish. And if it does, we have a commitment from the land owner that they would pull the plug at any time," said McInnis.

But the Port of New Orleans says the project will not only be a catalyst for container opportunities, it will also create jobs for the community. They plan to involve neighbors along the way and address any questions they might have.

"One of the things that we're talking about and that we will be doing is to be looking at the most modern ways. It would be a state-of-the art terminal which tends to be considered light industrial so that the noise and other impacts would tend to be a little bit less than a refinery or heavy industrial, other potential uses of that site," said Ganon.

The feasibility study will take a year to complete. McInnis says officials are planning to take a trip to other cities that have similar container shipyards to see what impact they've had on those communities.

The Louisiana Economic Development Secretary, Don Pierson, released this statement about the project: 
"The Port of New Orleans, through its board of commissioners, is advancing plans for a potential container terminal and logistics center at the 675-acre Sinclair site in St. Bernard Parish. The site features access to deepwater shipping, Class I rail service, major highway routes and an abundant supply of local workforce talent. These are thresholds ports must meet for a major intermodal shipping facility. The first step is a feasibility study of site development costs. Earlier this month, the port contracted with AECOM Technical Services for a yearlong study (up to $300,000) of those potential development costs. Once those needs are identified and costs are known, the State of Louisiana — through DOTD and LED — will work with the Port of the New Orleans to identify potential state funding participation. Should the project go forward, state funds likely would address public infrastructure improvements that could enhance the larger development of a container terminal and logistics center, focusing on the major private investment and job creation the site would attract. We want a thoughtful approach that will advance the interests of St. Bernard Parish, the Port of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana in a global competition for commerce."

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