The Port of New Orleans handled a record amount of container cargo in the year ending in September — more than a half-million 20-foot containers, the port’s leader said Tuesday.
During his annual State of the Port address, President and CEO Gary LaGrange said the port handled 537,285 20-foot equivalent units — a measure of cargo capacity for containerized shipping — in the 12-month period ending in September. That’s up 13.6 percent over the same span a year ago, he said.
The spike represents more than a doubling of the amount of container volume in the Central American trade lane through September, he said, buoyed by increases in banana imports as well as paper and chemical exports.
“It’s another milestone that comes on the heels of four record years in a row,” LaGrange said. “We anticipate continued growth in our container market, along with a robust break-bulk and project cargo market, as we recently set 14-year highs in tonnage moved over port docks.”
Recent break-bulk cargo data through May 2015 showed more than 15 percent growth in tonnage, led by a nearly 19 percent jump in imported steel.
“While we expect some softening in the imported steel market this fall, we anticipate the investment boom in the chemical and petrochemical industry on the lower Mississippi River will spur continued growth for the future,” LaGrange said.
LaGrange also touted the port’s cruise ship business in 2014, noting that the port handled more than 1 million passengers through its terminals as new and larger ships found a home port in the Crescent City. The numbers could continue to rise, he said, since Carnival Cruise Lines plans to increase capacity on its four- and five-day, year-round itineraries by 34 percent beginning in April 2016. The Carnival Elation is being replaced by the larger Carnival Triumph.
Port officials also will welcome 19 cruise ship ports of call to New Orleans from seven different ships and five cruise lines over the coming year.
Meanwhile, American Cruise Lines plans to bring a third riverboat to New Orleans to offer Mississippi River cruises to Memphis, Tennessee. And by 2017, Viking River Cruises will make New Orleans the home port for its first North American itineraries, which will travel along the Mississippi River as far north as Minnesota.