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  September 19th, 2023 | Written by

Partnership Between St. Louis Region and Port of New Orleans Continues with Joint Support for Infrastructure Investment

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St. Louis regional ports and the St. Louis Regional Freightway are jointly supporting the Port of New Orleans’ (Port NOLA) efforts to strengthen the flow of inland river cargo with the development of the Louisiana International Terminal (LIT). The LIT is a new container terminal project on the Gulf Coast that will benefit not only residents and businesses in south Louisiana, but also advanced manufacturing operations, agribusinesses and farmers, as well as other port operations throughout the Southeast and Midwest regions. Port NOLA’s new $1.8 billion state-of-the art container terminal will eliminate air-draft restrictions that limit the size of vessels that can currently call on the Port NOLA, allowing it to serve vessels of all sizes and dramatically increasing Louisiana’s import and export capacity while fostering strategic inland growth.

The St. Louis region signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Port NOLA in 2017 aimed at growing trade with a commitment to building existing and new business relationships between the two region’s critical ports of call. The establishment of the MOU led to increased traffic flow of cargo between the middle of America and Port NOLA, which is strongly rooted in container-on-barge service. The container-on-barge service moves an average of 30,000 TEUs per year between New Orleans, the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, Memphis and now St. Louis.

To further these efforts, the St. Louis Regional Freightway is supporting the Port of New Orleans in their development process to seek federal infrastructure funding for LIT.

The St. Louis region’s ports include America’s Central Port in Granite City, Illinois; Port Authority of St. Louis in the City of St. Louis in Missouri; Kaskaskia Regional Port Authority in southwestern Illinois; and the Jefferson County Port Authority in Missouri, south of St. Louis. 

Intermodal river transportation has become an increasingly viable option for shipping containerized freight via traditional barge or new liner vessels. Maximizing one of the nation’s most important and underutilized trade routes and growing the volume of containerized freight moving on the inland waterways are two ways the St. Louis region and Port NOLA are working together and helping to solve global supply chain disruptions.

The St. Louis region is the nexus of six Class I railroads, four interstates located within 500 miles of one third of the U.S. population, and the most strategic location on the inland waterway system – ice-free and lock-free to and from the Gulf of Mexico. 

The St. Louis region has been branded the “Ag (Agriculture) Coast of America” as home to a 15-mile stretch of the Mississippi River that has the highest level of grain and fertilizer barge handling anywhere along the inland waterway system, efficiently moving those commodities between barge and truck and barge and rail. Fifty percent of the U.S. crops and livestock are produced within a 500-mile radius of the St. Louis region, including approximately 80% of corn and soybean acreage. With the world population expected to grow by 25% and exceed 10 billion over the next 30 years, the Midwest will play a key role in feeding the world, and being able to efficiently move ag products out of America’s heartland will be increasingly important.

The Louisiana International Terminal builds on past federal investments in dredging the Mississippi River to 50 feet and locates the new terminal within the protection of the $14 billion Hurricane and Storm Risk Reduction System, which was constructed in the New Orleans region following Hurricane Katrina. The new terminal will allow the container-on-barge service to expand with a dedicated berth space designed for use. Container-on-barge volumes nationwide are expected to grow above 200,000 TEUs by 2050. This necessary, efficient transportation access allows U.S. shippers to compete in global markets and offers expanding trade opportunities for urban and rural communities.

New Jersey-based Ports America, one of North America’s largest marine terminal operators, and Geneva, Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Company, through its terminal development and investment arm Terminal Investment Limited (TiL), have committed $800 million toward the project. In addition to the partners’ investment, the construction of the terminal will be supported by a substantial commitment from Port NOLA, as well as state and federal funding sources. The project is currently in the design and permitting phase of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental review process. Construction is slated to begin in 2025 and the first berth to open in 2028.