New Orleans port cargo hits 14-year high _lowres

Photo provided by the Port of New Orleans -- Stevedore Coastal Cargo Co. handles steel wire rod coil at the Louisiana Avenue Terminal at the Port of New Orleans recently. Steel imports rose more than 100 percent in 2014, leading to a 14-year high for Port general cargo at its public docks.

Nearly 8.4 million tons of cargo passed through the Port of New Orleans’ public docks in 2014, the highest annual total since 2000.

The amount of cargo at the docks increased 28 percent over the 2013 numbers, officials said.

“It was a busy year for the port, and these numbers reflect the success we’ve realized from the combined efforts of the entire port community,” said Gary LaGrange, port president and CEO. “This is great news and creates momentum for our terminal operators and customers. The challenge now is to build upon these successes and continue to grow.”

A jump in the amount of imported iron and steel that was handled by the port led to the increase. In 2014, there were 3.5 million tons of iron and steel that went through the port, a 102 percent increase over the year before. The amount of breakbulk cargo — goods not transported in shipping containers or tankers — was up 52 percent from 2013’s total to reach nearly 3.8 million tons.

The total amount of cargo to pass through the port, which includes export grain, midstream operations and private tonnage, also was up 28 percent to top 31 million tons. LaGrange said he expects 2015’s cargo figures will be better because of the thriving chemical industry and new shippers, such as Chiquita Brands International, which returned to New Orleans in October after a 40-year absence.

“New weekly services, such as CMA CGM’s Victory Bridge Service to Europe, the return of Maersk Line’s vessels, Chiquita cargo and our new Mississippi River Intermodal Terminal will position the port for future growth,” he said.