MSC, Ports America Invest in New Container Terminal Near New Orleans

Port of New Orleans
Community open house for the new terminal design, March 2022 (Port NOLA)

Published Dec 12, 2022 7:25 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of New Orleans has announced a landmark public-private partnership with the State of Louisiana, port operator Ports America and ocean carrier MSC to build a big-ship container terminal in the town of Violet, about 11 miles downriver from dowtown New Orleans. 

The $1.8 billion project will have enough capacity to handle two million TEU per year of cargo. Its location will allow it to benefit from the deeper 50-foot channel in the river below New Orleans, as well as unlimited air draft. The port's sole existing container terminal is restricted by the 170-foot clearance below the Crescent City Connection, the twin-span cantilever bridge that carries U.S. Route 90 over the river. 

Ports America and MSC plan to put $800 million into the new terminal project, and the $1 billion balance will come from the port authority, the state and the federal government.

“This public-private partnership with the Port of New Orleans, TiL and Ports America has the potential to become one of the most impactful economic development projects in our state’s history,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement. 

Port NOLA sees the project as a mission-critical investment to keep Louisiana competitive with neighboring Gulf Coast states, which have steadily been upgrading container-terminal infrastructure. The port bought the 1,200-acre parcel for the terminal in 2020, and its team has been working with the community in Violet to manage the impact of port development and operation.  The layout and planning have changed in several ways to resolve community concerns, including the installation of shore power at all berths to reduce on-site emissions. 

The terminal is already undergoing environmental permitting review with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. All going well, the partners to start construction in 2025 and bring the terminal online in 2028. 

A competing terminal plan, the Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District's proposal for a site further downriver, may end up starting operations after the NOLA project. Plaquemines' plan has the backing of Maersk's APMT, but aother key sponsor, inland feeder startup American Patriot Holdings, has ended its exclusivity agreement with Plaquemines and has begun working with other partners. A delay in land acquisition for the Plaquemines site was at the root of the dispute, according to Waterways Journal.