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Local Government Files Lawsuit to Block New Port NOLA Container Terminal 

Louisiana Container Terminal
Preliminary design rendering of the new Port of New Orleans container terminal (Port NOLA)

Published Aug 8, 2023 12:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

Efforts to develop a large new container terminal to expand the import and export capacity of the Port of New Orleans and Louisiana continue to face local opposition. In the latest development in the politically-charged debate over the new terminal, the District Attorney for St. Bernard Parish where the facility would be located filed a lawsuit attempting to block the development. 

Plans for the Louisiana International Terminal began in 2018 and advanced in 2020 when the Port of New Orleans purchased 1,200 acres of land in Violet, on the Mississippi River in a neighboring, independent parish below the city. The plan calls for a terminal that would when completed be able to handle two million TEU annually providing a significant expansion to the region’s capabilities. Port officials highlight that the location would take full advantage of the deeper 50-foot level of the Lower Mississippi River Ship Channel and would avoid the height restrictions from the Mississippi River bridges further upriver. In the selected location, the terminal would be able to handle ships of all sizes and also address capacity constraints at the current terminal.

Port NOLA entered into an agreement with The St. Bernard Port Authority for the rights to operate the facility. District Attorney Perry Nicosia in filing the suit questions The St. Bernard Port Authority’s legal right to assign rights to Port NOLA. The independence of the parish was confirmed by law they argue in 1992. They are seeking to have the agreement for the operations, known as the Cooperative Endeavor Agreement, to be declared null and void under Louisiana law.

The lawsuit is “preposterous” and “election-year theatrics” Brandy Christian, Port Nola CEO told a reporter from the Associated Press.

Last year, Governor John Bel Edwards said the project had the potential to become one of the most impactful economic development projects in Louisiana’s history. He was speaking as he announced an agreement with MSC’s Terminal Investment Limited (TIL) and Ports America committing to an $800 million investment in the project. The two leading terminal operators agreed to join with the state and Port NOLA investing in the construction of the terminal as well as to operate the terminal once construction is completed.

The lawsuit continues one of the several tactics used by the critics to oppose the project. They raised the same questions over jurisdiction in January 2022 when the purchase of the land and the cooperation agreement was finalized.

Port NOLA highlights that it is working with the local community and government officials to address concerns as the design is developed for the terminal. Critics have raised concerns about the traffic and trucking servicing the port as well as drainage and other environmental issues along the river.  

The design was developed Port NOLA highlights to include a natural buffer for the nearby community and with elements such as the St. Bernard Transportation Corridor, among other roadway improvements, specifically designed to address community concerns. As part of the project, port officials have promised to address the need to replace an elementary school and baseball field that would be impacted by the development.

The project continues to be in the design and permitting review phase, which includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental review process. Government and port officials have slated the construction start for 2025 and the first berth to open in 2028.