Container shipments set monthly record at Port of New Orleans terminal _lowres

Photo provided by the Port of New Orleans -- The Mississippi River Intermodal Terminal began operations in March at the Port of New Orleans. The Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal is in the background.

More container traffic moved through the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal at the Port of New Orleans in March and April than any two months in its history.

According to figures released by the port, 50,974 20-foot-equivalent units — a measure of cargo capacity for containerized shipping — moved through the port’s Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal in April, beating the previous monthly record of 48,594 20-foot containers in March.

Strong chemical exports and higher metals imports helped push the port’s 2015 general cargo figures to new highs, according to figures released Wednesday by the port.

In 2015, the port saw 8.6 million tons of general cargo, up nearly 3 percent compared with 8.3 million tons in 2014. In addition to overall tonnage growth, the port’s Napoleon Avenue terminal handled a record 525,485 20-foot containers in 2015, up more than 7 percent compared with the previous year.

“Continued growth in cargo figures is attributable to our efficient terminal operators, valued customers and the hard work of the entire port community,” Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange said. “All of that hard work is also paying off with international recognition from trusted transportation publications citing the port’s productivity.”

Among the port’s top export commodities, chemical exports rose 7.1 percent to 1.86 million tons and forest products totaled 435,056 tons, up 5.4 percent. On the inbound side, nonferrous metals rose more than 44 percent to 499,287 tons, led by imported zinc at 220,265 tons. Natural rubber imports grew by 3.4 percent to 364,265 tons, and coffee rose by 3.8 percent to 261,802 tons. The imported steel market softened in 2015, the port said: 3.27 million tons, down 7.6 percent from the previous year.

LaGrange said recent port and terminal operator investments, including a $7.9 million refrigerated container racking system, could lead to further growth in the coming year.

“Nearly $40 million in new investments to increase efficiencies and expand container handling capabilities have been made in the last year at our Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal,” LaGrange said. “Our challenge now is to keep pace and execute our plan for smart growth in the future.”

The port also saw growth to its cruise operations, which topped the 1 million passenger mark. Cruise embarkations and disembarkations totaled 1,023,700 in 2015. Larger and newer cruise ships positioned in New Orleans look to draw additional passengers this year.