As the nation took stock of the rebuilding of New Orleans at the first anniversary of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, during the first five months of this year, The Port of New Orleans reached cargo levels up 4.1% over the same month’s averages for the past four years.
The four-year average for the first five months has been 3.94 million short tons. For 2006, the port moved more than 4.1 million short tons for the period. Year-over-year for all Port board-owned tonnage – which includes all docks owned and leased by the Board of Commissioners for the Port – cargo was up 10,744 short tons.
Steel and other break-bulk commodities, including natural rubber, forestry products and general cargo, helped recovery. Remarkable is that this growth was achieved in spite of the Port’s loss of a quarter of its facilities along the Mississippi River – Gulf Outlet (MR-GO) and its Inner Harbor Navigation Canal.
“We are working diligently to ensure the Port is made whole again,” says Gary LaGrange, the Port of New Orleans president and CEO. “We must secure funding to mitigate the businesses along the MR-GO, which invested millions of dollars on the promise of deep-water access.” Before Hurricane Katrina, MR-GO was authorized to have a project depth of 36 feet. Katrina caused silting of the area to 21 feet. The Port is seeking federal funds to either relocate or subsidize deep draft shipping unable to use MR-GO.
More positive signs for the Port include the fact that some three-quarters of its facilities on the Mississippi River didn’t flood, suffering only wind damage to warehouses and transit sheds. Another sign is the return of cruise ships to the Port, which will open its state-of-the-art, $37 million, Erato Street Cruise Terminal at the end of this month. It’s a 90,000 square foot facility with a 1,000-vehicle parking garage.