Led by the Port of New Orleans’ advancement of the $1.8 billion Louisiana International Terminal, ports of the Pelican State are ramping up infrastructure to handle increasing volumes of containerized cargo and other goods.

As the $250 million project to deepen the Lower Mississippi River ship channel to 50 feet moves toward anticipated 2025 completion, still greater activity is anticipated along the nation’s most prominent waterway, while offshore energy, including wind power, are driving further growth at Louisiana maritime installations.

Indeed, according to latest statistics from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisiana already is home to five of the busiest 12 of America’s ports as measured by total tonnage: South Louisiana (No. 2), New Orleans (No. 6), Greater Baton Rouge (No. 8), Lake Charles (No. 10) and Plaquemines (No. 12).

Heading up the Mississippi River and generally proceeding northwesterly, then swinging back around to coastal and inland facilities not along the Mississippi, here’s the latest on key ports of Louisiana:

Plaquemines Port
APM Terminals plans privately funded development of a $500 million container terminal at Plaquemines Port, as shown in this rendering.

Plaquemines Port

Officials of the Plaquemines Port, Harbor & Terminal District are highly enthusiastic about a 30-year agreement, with extension options, signed in early 2024 with APM Terminals for the development of a privately funded, $500 million container terminal near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The terminal, which officials say will truly make Plaquemines “The Louisiana Gateway Port,” is to initially encompass 200 acres, with on-dock rail facilities and a berth capable of handling vessels with capacity of as many as 14,000 twenty-foot container units, or TEUs – the largest containerships now traversing the expanded Panama Canal. Development options call for future expansion of the logistics hub to take in as many as 900 acres on the greenfield site.

Charles Tillotson, in his second year as executive director of Plaquemines Port following a stint as chief commercial officer of SeaPort Manatee, says geographic and strategic advantages of the new terminal should be “overwhelming,” with expanded market opportunities for both import and export cargos via a site that is three hours roundtrip closer to mouth of the river than any other proposed terminal.

St. Bernard Port
Facilities of St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District are situated just down the lower Mississippi River from New Orleans.

St. Bernard Port

Just down the lower Mississippi from New Orleans, St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District is wrapping up its most ambitious project ever – a three-year, $38 million rehabilitation of sections A and F of Chalmette Slip. State and federal funds are respectively covering $15 million and $13 million of costs, with the remainder coming from the port and its terminal operator, Associated Terminals. When completed by fall, the renovated facility should enjoy a boost of as much as 25 percent in throughput capacity for handling ferrous and nonferrous metals, various other bulk, breakbulk and project cargos, and fertilizer.

To support additional activity, the port is working with Associated Terminals toward 2025 construction of a new, 60,000-square-foot general cargo warehouse at Arabi Terminal. Also, ASR Group is negotiating to build a 200,000-square-foot warehouse at Chalmette Terminal, to augment an 81,000-square-foot warehouse it already is leasing for storing sugar from Domino’s St. Bernard Parish refinery.

The port also has finished marina upgrades, is in the final phase of implementing a portwide geographic information system, or GIS, and is advancing multiple roadway projects.

Port of New Orleans
Port NOLA’s $1.8 billion Louisiana International Terminal, or LIT, as depicted in this rendering, is on track for 2025 groundbreaking.

Port of New Orleans

Marketed as Port NOLA, the Port of New Orleans has made significant progress on its second container terminal, the $1.8 billion Louisiana International Terminal, or LIT, including announcement of $300 million in federal grants toward construction in Violet in St. Bernard Parish, downriver from existing Port NOLA facilities. Those monies, representing the largest federal investment ever in a new U.S. container terminal, are being buttressed by funding from the State of Louisiana and Port NOLA, plus $800 million from terminal operator Ports America and the Terminal Investment Ltd. arm of global container line Mediterranean Shipping Co.

Groundbreaking is on track for 2025, with first LIT berth opening projected for 2028, according to Port NOLA officials, including Amanda Coates, promoted this month to chief commercial officer from head of business development.

Augmenting Port NOLA’s recently modernized Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal, LIT aims to serve vessels of all sizes and leverage Port NOLA’s connectivity via four critical Interstate highways, six Class I railroads, 14,500 miles of inland waterways and more than 30 inland hubs to dramatically increase Louisiana’s import and export capabilities.

Avondale Global Gateway
Avondale Global Gateway, operated by T. Parker Host, is strategically situated along the Mississippi River’s West Bank in Jefferson Parish.

Avondale Global Gateway

About 7 miles up the Mississippi River from New Orleans, on the West Bank in Jefferson Parish, Avondale Global Gateway is advancing under the stewardship of century-old terminal operator and stevedore T. Parker Host. HOST acquired the former Avondale Shipyard property in 2018 and reopened the site in 2022 as a center of maritime commerce.

HOST has restored the Avondale docks to former capacity and made connection to the Union Pacific rail line, offering tenants and customers upgraded multimodal transportation options. Roadway links have gotten a boost with the completion in early 2024 of a $2 million refurbishment of AGG’s trucking gate complex, in conjunction with the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission. And 275 acres of covered storage and open laydown space are playing a role in attraction of new manufacturing industry interest, according to HOST executives.

As part of HOST’s positioning of Avondale Global Gateway to serve as a hub for offshore wind energy development in the Gulf of Mexico, AGG recently hosted participants in Oceantic Network’s International Partnering Forum, as well as delegations representing Germany, England and Norway.

Port of South Louisiana’s Globalplex
The Port of South Louisiana’s Globalplex general cargo dock is realizing a resurgence in activity over the past two years.

Port of South Louisiana

Spanning 54 miles on both sides of the Mississippi upriver from Avondale, the Port of South Louisiana is building upon its longtime positions as the nation’s leading export hub for grain and the second-largest tonnage port in the Western Hemisphere, ranking behind only Houston.

Port of South Louisiana officials optimistically point to two consecutive years of increases in tonnage moving through PortSL, reaching 248,130,992 short tons in 2023, reversing a six-year trend of annual net decreases.

Construction of a second dock access bridge leading to PortSL’s Globalplex general cargo dock bodes to enhance the terminal’s dependability, optimize cargo transfer efficiency and facilitate handling of heavy loads. Meanwhile, Life for Tyres Group Ltd., Europe’s largest end-of-life tire recycling company, announced in February its intent to invest $46 million in establishing a plant for converting discarded tires into such sustainable commodities as advanced biofuel feedstock, recovered carbon black and scrap steel. The L4T Louisiana LLC plant is to be located on 10 acres of PortSL property in St. John the Baptist Parish, one of three parishes in which PortSL facilities are located.

Port of Greater Baton Rouge
Expanded yard facilities of the Port of Greater Baton Rouge can accommodate nearly 2,000 containers, ready for moving cargo downriver.

Port of Greater Baton Rouge

The Port of Greater Baton Rouge, in Port Allen, across the Mississippi River from Louisiana’s capital city, is enjoying a rebound in container-on-barge service following a downturn associated with low water levels on the river. The service, launched in 2016 through a public-private partnership with Seacor AMH, with federal grant support, provides the nation’s largest container-on-barge network, bringing plastic pellets from petrochemical plants downriver to the Port of New Orleans for export. In late 2023, the Seacor unit was acquired by Ingram Barge Co., a division of Ingram Marine Group.

During calendar 2023, the service saw a most-ever 20,500 container moves by barge, representing a reduction of 1.3 million kilograms of carbon dioxide emission and saving more than 130,000 gallons of diesel fuel that would have been expended by trucks had they transported those containers. To accommodate increasing volumes, the Port of Greater Baton Rouge has recently expanded its storage yard, which can now hold nearly 2,000 containers.

Officials of the Greater Baton Rouge and New Orleans ports point to their container-on-barge service collaboration as a model for strategic synergies.

Port Manchac
Liquid bulk storage and transloading operations are part of newly initiated activities at Port Manchac’s intermodal terminal along Lake Pontchartrain.

Port Manchac

Thirty miles northwest of New Orleans, along the northwestern shore of Lake Pontchartrain, barge transloading operations began in mid-2023 at South Tangipahoa Parish Port Commission’s Port Manchac as an initial part of plans by global industrial gas supplier Air Products and Chemicals Inc. to construct one of the world’s largest carbon-capture underground storage facilities. A future phase calls for Port Manchac to serve as base of operations for Allentown, Pennsylvania-based Air Products’ construction of a 30-mile-long pipeline for transport of liquefied product materials.

The Air Products operations should benefit from $3.5 million in recent Port Manchac infrastructure investments, including harbor dredging and improvements to bulkheads and floodwalls, laydown storage areas, internal roadways and drainage, truck scale facilities and 6,000 feet of rail tracks.

Future plans at Port Manchac’s 140-acre intermodal terminal, along the Canadian National Railway mainline, include construction of additional railcar storage space and laydown storage areas, as well as more channel dredging, to facilitate safe and efficient barge transshipments of bulk, breakbulk, liquid bulk, neobulk and containerized cargos from New Orleans and other locations along the Mississippi River.

Port Fourchon
A wind turbine, now journeying across the Atlantic Ocean, is to soon be erected at Port Fourchon, Louisiana’s southernmost port.

Port Fourchon

The Greater Lafourche Port Commission’s Port Fourchon – Louisiana’s southernmost port – is to become home in the second half of 2024 to the first wind turbine in operation in the Pelican State, according to port officials. Under a lease agreement with Gulf Wind Technology, the 187-foot-tall unit is to be erected at the Port Fourchon Coastal Wetland Park and used in data collection while serving as a platform for workforce training and potentially powering the port commission’s emergency operations center.

Port Fourchon officials are stoked about opportunities for the port to become a significant hub for offshore wind operations, supplementing its longtime position as the leading support center for more traditional oil and gas energy activities in the Gulf of Mexico.

Port Fourchon leadership is also looking forward to targeted 2026 completion of the $463 million Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development undertaking to improve the sinking LA 1 highway link by elevating lengthy portions of the roadway. In addition, a $1.5 million federal grant is facilitating construction of a new terminal building at South Lafourche’s Leonard J. Miller Jr. Airport.

Port of Morgan City rendering
A rendering shows what the Port of Morgan City should look like upon summer 2026 completion of dock expansion projects.

Port of Morgan City

At the confluence of the Atchafalaya River and Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, the Port of Morgan City is benefiting from the direct waterway link to the Gulf of Mexico offered by a 20-foot-deep, 400-foot-wide federally authorized channel, now being maintained through innovative dredging techniques under a recently extended agreement with Brice Civil Constructors Inc.

A consistent 20-foot-deep channel to the Gulf of Mexico – made possible through the Atchafalaya River and Bayous Boeuf, Black and Chene project – furnishes support for agriculture, traditional and renewable energies and various innovative projects, plus provides industry the ability to bid on additional maritime defense contracts, according to Port of Morgan City officials.

Meanwhile, the port’s East Dock expansion has just been completed, 800 Youngs Road Terminal expansion is continuing and West Dock expansion is moving toward completion by late summer 2026. At that time, the Port of Morgan City looks to have more than 30 acres available for use, including 11 waterfront acres, waterfront dock area of 1,900 linear feet and a laydown area of 500,000 square feet – 2 1/2 times the current 200,000 square feet.

Port of Lake Charles
A new $31 million, 176,000-square-foot warehouse advances toward targeted late 2024 completion at Southwest Louisiana’s bustling Port of Lake Charles.

Port of Lake Charles

Positioned along the Calcasieu River Ship Channel in Southwest Louisiana, the Lake Charles Harbor & Terminal District’s Port of Lake Charles has put hurricanes and other weather disasters of earlier this decade behind it and, with record cargo volumes, has moved into the No. 10 position among U.S. deepwater ports, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tonnage reports.

Opening of Cameron LNG’s liquefied natural gas facility, on property leased from the port district along the channel in Hackberry, has helped propel the region into the world’s top spot for LNG exports, while lumber imports, rice exports and raw coke exports are among commodities enjoying recent tonnage increases at the Port of Lake Charles.

The port has completed a $30 million berth improvement project and added 100,000 square feet of tension-fabric buildings at its City Docks, where a $130 million berth and transit shed replacement project – the most ambitious undertaking in the port’s history – is moving forward, promising to deliver a rebuilt dock with a roll-on, roll-off berth. Also, seven smaller warehouses are being replaced with one continuous 176,000-square-foot warehouse.

Port of Caddo-Bossier
At the Port of Caddo-Bossier, domestic steel coils are unloaded from a barge using a 60-ton-capacity, twin-hoist cantilever bridge crane.

Port of Caddo-Bossier

At the head of navigation on the Red River Waterway in Northwest Louisiana, 212 miles from the Mississippi River, the multimodal Port of Caddo-Bossier looks to benefit from BENTELER Steel/Tube Manufacturing Corp.’s newly announced plan to expand its Shreveport presence with construction of a $21 million threading facility for hot-rolled seamless steel tubes, to be online by the end of 2026.

The port, which spans 4,000 acres in Caddo and Bossier parishes and offers barge and onsite rail services, enhanced its transloading capabilities with late 2023 completion of a $4.5 million project that included three hardstands, while two additional endeavors augur to furnish further improvements. A $9.5 million project, expected to wrap up by yearend, is to deliver a 40,000-square-foot heavy-load warehouse for efficiently handling oversize and overweight cargos. And a $35 million waterline is being built from Bossier City to serve newly acquired port property.

In the design phase, with an eye toward completion within six years, is development of a roadway to directly connect the port with Interstate 49 and also ease access to I-20 for commercial traffic.