A NUMBERS GAME
Through the Third Quarter of 2018, the Port of South Louisiana’s throughput totals display why it’s a vital economic engine for the River Parishes and why increasing depth levels in the Lower Mississippi River via dredging is so important.
For years, the Port of South Louisiana has been a major player in global trade, an oasis of quality jobs for those in the region and an attractive destination for major industries to call home.
And judging by the Port’s throughput numbers through this Third Quarter, 2018 will be no different.
The longstanding “Largest Tonnage Port in the Western Hemisphere” aims to maintain that distinction as Third Quarter reports show the Port of South Louisiana is once again projected to surpass 300 million short tons of cargo this calendar year. Through the end of the Third Quarter, the Port handled 224.7 million short tons of product from nearly 3,330 vessels – down just slightly from 2017’s record-breaking pace of 228.7 million short tons.
But, with grain shipments projected to increase in the fourth quarter, the Port still has a shot to match 2017’s tonnage total of 307.8 million short tons.
“Our goal is to always increase our annual tonnage. We are very confident with the numbers (no matter what they may be) because we always expect a huge number; maybe not a new record every year but a huge number,” said Paul Aucoin, the Executive Director of the Port of South Louisiana. “Also, with $25 billion in announced projects coming into the Port District, the tonnage should increase proportionality.”
In the Third Quarter of 2018, 75.6 million short tons of cargo went through the Port. That’s up slightly from the 2017 Third Quarter throughput total of 75.1 million short tons. The number of vessels and barges called in the 2018 Third Quarter compared to the 2017 Third Quarter increased by 4 percent and 12 percent, respectively.
The majority of this quarter’s tonnage was represented by 18.1 short tons of Crude Oil (accounting for 24 percent of the throughput quarterly total) and 14.9 short tons of Petrochemicals (accounting for 20 percent of the throughput quarterly total). Corn (12.7 million short tons, 17 percent of the throughput quarterly total) and Soybeans (9.9 million short tons, 13 percent of the throughput quarterly total) rounded out the Top 4 commodities handled within the Port District during the months of July, August and September.
A deeper dive into these report numbers reveals a few eye-catching positive trends for a few industries in particular and the Port of South Louisiana overall. For instance, Coal throughput has more than doubled in the last five years — from 7.3 million short tons this time in 2014 to 16.3 million so far in 2018. Steel has also seen an upward trajectory recently. After the 2016 Third Quarter saw the Port handle 4 million short tons of steel, that number inflated to 4.8 million the next year and 5.3 million currently.
While pleased with the overall throughput numbers, Aucoin reiterated that guaranteeing this type of positive economic activity in the years to come is somewhat dependent on the mouth of the Mississippi River being dredged to 50 feet, permanently. Aucoin, along with his executive contemporaries at the other Louisiana ports, heads of industry and several politicians, have championed this effort for years — stressing to whomever will listen that dredging the Mississippi River from 45 feet to 50 feet (from Baton Rouge to the mouth leading to the Gulf of Mexico) is imperative to allow safe passage of new Panamax ocean-going cargo vessels.
This past August, the Army Corps of Engineers Senior Civil Engineer James Dalton recommended approval of the dredging project, citing that the 5-foot depth increase would generate $127.5 million in benefit to the country’s economy while costing less than $20 million annually to maintain.
Port Hosts Parish President Economic Development Meeting