Port of New Orleans to Receive Landmark Federal Grant for Terminal Project

New Orleans container terminal
New Orleans will receive a federal grant toward the construction of the new container terminal in Violet, MS (PortNOLA)

Published Jan 23, 2024 5:28 PM by The Maritime Executive


The Port of New Orleans is in line to receive a landmark federal grant as it continues to move forward with plans to develop a large new container terminal south of the city. Port officials emphasize the critical nature of the new terminal to meet the growth demands of the industry and the challenges of larger vessels.

The U.S. Department of Transportation notified the U.S. Congress that it intends to award an additional $226 million in federal grant money through its Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) competitive Grant Program, which will be used to assist in building the new facility known as the Louisiana International Terminal. This follows an earlier $73.77 million U.S. DOT awarded Port NOLA in December 2023 through its MEGA Grant program toward the projected $1.8 billion for the first construction phase of the facility.

“We are incredibly honored to receive this landmark grant award, which underscores decades of site and market analysis and reflects the recognition of our transformational project on a global scale,” said Port NOLA President and CEO Brandy Christian. “Not only is this the biggest economic development grant in Louisiana history, but also the largest federal investment in a new container terminal in USDOT history.”

The Port of New Orleans has already purchased over 1,200 acres of land in Violet, Mississippi south of the city and below the bridges and other obstructions which limit the current air draft of vessels calling at the port. The current plan, which is working its way through the federal approval process expects to use approximately 400 acres for the future container terminal, related infrastructure, and buffer areas.

At opening, it is anticipated the terminal would accept between 180,000 - 280,000 containers in the first year. The number of containers traveling through the terminal will grow over time as the terminal is built with a total projected capacity of two million TEU, but it may take 25 years to reach the terminal's maximum annual capacity. Port officials said the site was selected after an extensive search of the river and highlighted the strong access to rail and road networks to make the new terminal a regional hub. They have revised the plan in response to criticism from community members who among other things cite the new to relocate a school while arguing it would create traffic, noise, and air pollution in an already congested area.

The project has the support of Ports America and MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company’s terminal development and investment arm Terminal Investment Limited (TiL). They have committed $800 million in a public-private partnership for the development of the terminal. Louisiana has already provided nearly $30 million toward early development costs and committed an additional $50 million for the design of the St. Bernard Transportation Corridor, which would improve overall traffic flow while also connecting the terminal to the interstate highway system.

Construction on the multi-year, phased project is anticipated to begin in 2025, with the first ship wharf opening in 2028. 

It is one of two new terminals planned for the region to address the need for increased capacity and better access for large containerships. Maersk through its AMPT terminal operations recently agreed to invest about $500 million into the development of the Plaquemines Port. This proposed terminal would be about 50 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi, with sponsors saying it would be 1.5 hours closer to the river's mouth than other proposals. This plan also calls for a 200-acre facility in the first phase able to handle vessels with a capacity of at least 14,000 TEU with some options calling for a capability of handling 20,000-plus TEU vessels.