The State of Louisiana is reviewing options for building a new container port close to the Gulf of Mexico. Dubbed the Millennium Port the new facility will replace container facilities along the Industrial Canal at the Port of New Orleans. Restricted access to the Canal via the 76-mile-long Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MR-GO) has caused New Orleans Port officials to predict that the state will begin losing its 25 percent market share of Mississippi River commerce as ships get bigger and trade with Central and South America continues to grow.
A study presented to the Port of New Orleans a year ago predicted that containerized cargo trade between the United States and Latin America now at 2.5 million containers per year will grow to more than 16 million by 2040.
The Louisiana legislature created the Millennium Port Authority in its regular 1999 legislative session (revised statutes 34:3474 et. seq.) providing for 11 members 10 to be appointed immediately and the final member to come from the constituency where the new port is located.
The first order of business of the new port authority will be to decide whether there is a need for the new port.
“This is a foregone conclusion” said Kevin Cuningham assistant chief of staff to Governor M.J. Foster Jr. Two years ago H. Ron Brinson president of the New Orleans Port Authority informed the governor that the Port of New Orleans would not be able to move the growing container traffic and larger ships; and that changes in the shipping industry and improvements being made by other ports on the Gulf of Mexico specifically in Houston would soon begin to erode the State’s market share said Cunningham.
“The board will quickly come to the conclusion that we should develop a new port” he said.
The second function of the group will be to select a site for the Millennium Port. The Port of New Orleans commissioned a study by engineering firm Frederick R. Harris which looked at each of several sites port officials were suggesting. The report ruled out some sites and made some recommendations said Patrick Galway executive assistant to the president of the Port of New Orleans. The optimal sites are between mile 40 and 60 AHP in Plaquemines Parish he said.
Port Fourchon on the Gulf of Mexico near Grande Isle is also being seriously considered.
The third function of the committee will be to decide on financing options for the $1billion port complex.
“The governor’s interest in the project was on the assumption that there are private interests that will help build the port while the state would bear the responsibility of providing adequate road and rail service to the facility” said Cunningham. Money for the port facilities could be raised through revenue bonds to be paid back through lease arrangements with the tenants of the port he said. The transportation arteries would be built with a combination of state and federal funds.
While the Port Authority members have been appointed by the governor there is no representative from the governor’s office on the committee said Cuningham. Gov. wanted to make sure that we have as open a process as possible to select a site that will be the best for the state and not for political reasons. For that reason the governor’s office will stay out of the selection process he said.
Members of the Millennium Port Authority are: Otto Candies III Edgar L. Chase III William F. Coyle Jr. Mark Delesdernier Jr. Raphael Duplechain John F. Marzullo Kam K. Movassaghi Mark A. Pivach Philip A. Prejean and Kevin P. Reilly.