Work has started on the long-discussed expansion of the Port of Greater Baton Rouge’s Inland Rivers Marine Terminal container storage yard, a project that will increase the amount of shipping containers moving between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
The $4.5 million expansion will involve pouring 3.5 acres of concrete at the container storage yard and should be completed in 60 to 90 days, said Greg Johnson, the port’s director of business development. This will bump up the size of the 84-acre facility.
“We had a slight setback with the delays caused by the high Mississippi River,” Johnson said. But the site has been excavated and material to pave the area should be coming in the next two weeks.
Once the work is completed, about 700 more shipping containers will be able to be stored at the terminal. Currently, about 800 containers can be stored on site.
The Inland Rivers Marine Terminal is located on a barge canal near the intersection of the Mississippi River and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. A number of companies are located at the facility, including SEACOR AMH, which launched a container-on-barge service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans several years ago. The service takes empty barges from Memphis to several local petrochemical plants where they are filled with containers loaded down with plastic pellets. The containers are then shipped down the Mississippi River to New Orleans where they are sent to plants in Europe, Asia and South America.
SEACOR has seen its barge traffic out of the inland rivers marine terminal go from 8,018 containers in 2017 to 13,685 in 2018. Nearly 8,500 containers have been handled at the port as of the end of July, Johnson said.
Between the expansion and new equipment that allows containers to be stacked higher and more easily loaded onto and off of barges, Johnson said the forecast in 2020 is for 1,000 containers to go through the terminal every week.
Jay Hardman, the port’s executive director, has said the success of the program has staff looking at loading containers with more than just plastic pellets. Agricultural products, lumber and logs are being looked at as potential exports.