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  April 14th, 2014 | Written by

Port of South Louisiana

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Paul G. Aucoin, Executive Director

FTZ No. 124 • 335 total acres • 262,000 sq. ft. warehouse space • 45-ft. channel

Rail: CN, KCS, UP

Highways: I-10, I-55

Top export destinations: China, Japan, Netherlands

Top export commodities: Grain, Coal/Lignite/Coke, Petrochemicals


Paul Aucoin: We are the largest tonnage port in the United States in the Western Hemisphere, close to 280 million short tons passed through our port in 2012. We don’t have 2013 statistics yet. So we are very proud of that and over 50 percent of the grain that’s exported from the United States to foreign countries comes through our port. Something you may not know, because it’s sort of new to us, is that we have purchased and now own and manage an airport, which makes us a truly intermodal port with, you know, shipping and air and river and train and highway, so we’re truly intermodal. We are a sister port with the Panama Canal authority. We’ll be going to Panama in October with several businessmen from the area to really celebrate that signing which took place last year, but we’re really going to celebrate it in a more formal way and a more formal ceremony.

This port is not only important to the local economy here but to the region and the state of Louisiana and the entire United States. We play a big role in the exports and imports from this country to others.

The five deep-water ports in the Mississippi River–that would be Port of Baton Rouge, Port of South Louisiana, Port of New Orleans, Port of Plaquemines, Port of St. Bernard–work together whenever we can. You know, there’s a natural competition, but we try to work together, and I think together we comprise the fifth largest port in the world from what I’m told. Maybe even higher than that, for throughput.

Global Trade: So you’re friendly but you’re also competitive. Do you feel like you each have areas that you specialize in that you don’t really step on each other’s toes or are you for the most part competing for the same business?

Paul Aucoin: Well, a lot of times we are competing for the same business, but I would have to say that the Port of New Orleans is ahead of us on the container operation. We’re still exploring it and trying to prepare for the opening of the Panama Canal, which is supposedly going to increase a lot of the container cargo and we think that we can be a player in the container operation, but we have nothing that resembles a true container operation at this time. Although, if a ship comes in with some containers, we can offload them, but we’re not just taking whole ships of containers at this time. We’re still exploring that. We have feasibility studies that show it can be very profitable for us to do it. So we’re still exploring.

Right now New Orleans has the lion’s share of that market but we know that ultimately one day they’re going to run out of land to put their containers on and we’ll be ready to take up the slack so to speak. Other than that, it’s up to the cargo handlers as to what port they want to use, and we try to make ourselves as attractive to them as the next port; all of us are equally here, ready to handle cargo.

Global Trade: So if there were an exporter, say in Oklahoma, and they needed a port and you were trying to differentiate, what would you say are the selling points that would have them choose your port over Baton Rouge or New Orleans?

PA: Well, I probably wouldn’t be able to come up with any specific selling point. It’s just where they may feel more comfortable—pricing, rail connections to railroads, barge traffic, etc.—so they make that decision based upon where their cargo’s ultimate destination might be and if it can come here to our port we can have certain things, rail lines and highways, that we can connect them to, river traffic, barges. And if they go to the Port of New Orleans or Baton Rouge, it may be something entirely different. Just to give you an example, Port of South Louisiana is 54 miles on both sides of the Mississippi River. Well, on the western bank of the Mississippi River, we’re served almost exclusively by Union Pacific. On the east bank we’re served primarily by CN and Kansas City Southern. All that plays into where you’re cargo is going and who can best get it there. That’s all we try to do is convince them that we can do as well as anybody.

We’re all in this together; what’s good for one is good for the other, you know. We are fortunate, we have a large port district and just within our district we have seven grain elevators, four major refineries. That’s why so much of the grain exported from the United States leaves through our port.

So much of the gasoline produced in the United States is produced in our port. So, the second largest refinery in the United States is within our port district. We’re very fortunate and we assist these companies with whatever their needs may be, insofar as security, firefighting, financing for construction of docks. We can assist them with bond issues, tax exempt bonds and things of that nature.