Director’s Log

Last month’s unofficial release of President Trump’s list of 50 “Emergency and National Security Projects” list is being met with excitement by the maritime industry, especially those companies along the Mississippi River. Within this list, recorded as project seven, is the much-needed dredging of the Mississippi River. Ranked highest of the three Louisiana projects included, it is listed at a cost of $1 billion that would create 200 direct jobs.

While ports on the East Coast have been adequately deepened to 50 feet in order to accommodate today’s deep-draft vessels, the Mississippi River dredging project has never been properly funded. As one of our country’s most valuable resources, steps must be taken to ensure the Mississippi River remains unobstructed and reliable. It is vital to the success of the state’s — and the nation’s — economy.

Mississippi River ports are economic engines that spur job creation. As the largest tonnage port in the Western Hemisphere for the last several decades, the Port of South Louisiana handles approximately $60 billion in trade annually and, according to Dr. Loren Scott, supports over 30 thousand direct jobs (6 of 10) in the River Region, which translates to over 83 thousand jobs (1 of 25) in the state of Louisiana. Regionally, it contributes $1.8 billion in income, $14.4 billion in revenue, and $72.5 million in state and local taxes. With $23.762 billion in current and impending capital investment within the Port of South Louisiana district — by both national and international companies — our navigation channel must be ready for the increased vessel traffic resulting from these ventures.

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As an advocate for the deepening of the Mississippi River, I traveled to Washington D.C. in December to meet with key members of President Trump’s transition team. I discussed with Dan Slane the negative effects of a neglected Mississippi River channel on ports and the industries that rely upon it for transportation of goods. The Port of South Louisiana is a critical connection between international cargo entering the U.S. via the Gulf of Mexico and an inland river system that provides the most economic mode of transportation. The strategic location of the Port of South Louisiana on the Mississippi River allows manufacturers to easily and affordably import raw materials and export finished products around the globe. The nation’s commerce depends on the mouth of the Mississippi River being properly dredged and the movement of cargo unencumbered.

We are encouraged that the maritime industry’s collective appeal is resonating with President Trump. The release of this list and the inclusion of the essential undertaking of dredging the Mississippi River seems to echo President Trump’s campaign promise to revitalize the nation’s failing transportation infrastructure. Although it is early in the process, we are optimistic that the administration will keep pushing for this project and will urge Congress to approve it.

In spite of intermittent draft restrictions on the Mississippi River last year, the Port of South Louisiana continued to break tonnage records. Cargo handling (294.9 million short tons), vessel calls (4,578), and barge movements (59,780) in 2016 exceeded the 2015 record. The Port of South Louisiana consistently ranks above the ports of Houston, New York/New Jersey, New Orleans, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Long Beach, Greater Baton Rouge, and Mobile. In 2015, the Port of South Louisiana ranked first in total trade (292.8 million short tons), imports (75.9 million short tons), and total domestic trade (147.5 million short tons) and second in exports (69.3 million short tons) and total foreign trade (145.3 million short tons). If the draft of the Mississippi River is increased and maintained at proper levels, I am confident that the Port of South Louisiana will continue to break records.

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