Residents Seek to Stop Development of New Orleans’ Container Terminal
Local opposition is mounting as the Port of New Orleans pushes forward with its plans for a massive new container terminal. Spurred on by the announcement that the port completed the purchase of land for the proposed new terminal, residents have filed a lawsuit and earlier this week attended a meeting of the local government calling on the parish council to take a more active role in opposing the development.
Port of New Orleans officials have long cited the need for a new terminal south of the city which would be more accessible and able to handle larger ships. Port officials point to the fact that container volumes have more than doubled in the past decade with double-digit volume growth in 2018 and 2019. However, Port Nola CEO Brandy Christian points out that while the volume has grown at the existing facility, the port’s share of business coming from the Gulf of Mexico is shrinking. He points to the lack of capacity and the physical limitations of the current terminal both in depth and overhead clearance to handle the bigger ships.
Planning began in 2018 for the new terminal which they propose to locate approximately 7.5 miles southeast of New Orleans in the small town of Violet, in St. Bernard Parish. Violet has been the historic location for a range of shipping activities from cargo handling to ship repairs. Port Nola proposes to build a 350 to 400-acre facility that when completed in 2027 would handle approximately 185,000 TEU each year expanding over its 25-year lifespan to handle between 1.5 and 2 million TEU annually. Called the Louisiana International Container Terminal, the project is in competition with the planned Plaquemines Port container terminal that has contracted with Maersk’s APM Terminals for the operation of that facility.
Residents of St. Bernard Parish organized their opposition effort last summer into a group called SOS - Stop the Destruction of St. Bernard Committee. Their advocacy contributed to a vote in August 2021 which the St. Bernard Parish Council made as largely symbolic opposition to the development of the new terminal. Council members point out that they have no jurisdiction over the state-run ports and all they can do is ensure the project follows the legally prescribed permitting process.
Earlier this week, Port Nola announced that it completed the purchase of the 1,100 acres of land for the terminal for $28 million. This is in addition to 89 acres of the Violet Dock Port riverfront property Port Nola acquired in 2020. In addition to providing for the new terminal, the land would be used for green space and buffers. As part of the project, port officials recognize that an elementary school and baseball field would have to be replaced due to their development plans.
Residents in December filed a lawsuit to stop the development of the container terminal, which they content “threatens to destroy the local economy, environment, and quality of life.” The opposition says the plan threatens to co-opt virtually the entire public transportation infrastructure, destroy valuable wetlands and other facilities crucial to proper drainage, threaten the security of the residents and commercial concerns in the parish, and create damaging noise, light, and aerial emissions, among many other public concerns.
This week the group took its opposition a step further demanding the parish council adopt resolutions calling for further environmental studies and the impact of the proposed terminal. The council adopted the resolutions but the group accused them of not doing enough to oppose the terminal.
Port Nola officials point out that the land purchase was just the first step in a multi-year process working with the Army Corps of Engineers and others to study the impact of the terminal and develop a design that addresses the environmental issues and other concerns. They said the issues would be addressed as the design moves from preliminary proposals and goes through years of federal and state permitting.
The opposition believes the terminal is unnecessary and the location is not appropriate given the residents in the area. They support the Plaquemines Port project that APM would operate. They say the site further down the river is in an area that is not as populated and would provide better access for large ships.
Port Nola expects the planning process will last possibly three more years. They are targeting 2025 to begin construction of the Louisiana Container Terminal in Violet.