The Port of South Louisiana’s recent purchase of the iconic West Bank shipyard-turned-terminal was done with short-term and long-term visions in mind

Standing for decades as a symbol of south Louisiana’s economic stability and industrial strength, the old Avondale Shipyard is in the midst of an astonishing second act. 

After operations closed on the site roughly a decade ago, Avondale was revived in 2018 when Virginia-based terminal operator T. Parker Host and Illinois-based Hilco Redevelopment Partners purchased the neglected industrial site and transformed it into a private terminal for maritime commerce under the new name of Avondale Global Gateway. 

Now, after a months-long negotiation and the unanimous approval of the Port of South Louisiana’s commission, the Port has entered into a purchase agreement with T. Parker Host to acquire the 254-acre global logistics hub situated on the West Bank of the Mississippi River in Jefferson Parish. 

- Sponsors -

Louisiana state law allows entities like the Port of South Louisiana to obtain property outside of its jurisdiction as long as it can show the new facility will provide benefit to its partners within the Port District. The addition of Avondale Global Gateway marks the first time the Port of South Louisiana has acquired a site outside of its 54-mile River Parishes footprint. It’s a bold move that port officials felt was necessary in order to stay competitive in the global maritime marketplace.

“Within our Port District, we have a lot of industry on the West Bank that, prior to this acquisition, did not have access to a public dock,” said Port of South Louisiana CEO Paul Matthews. “The deficiency created a logistical challenge for those tenants on the West Bank, so much so that several of them were shipping cargo all the way to Houston to get it out.” 

“There was no West Bank public dock from the mouth of the Mississippi River all the way to St. James Parish,” Matthews continued. “Therefore, our port commission made it a priority to acquire one, even if it required thinking outside the box. Commerce knows no parish line. When folks are looking to invest here, they’re looking to move cargo in the most efficient way possible.”

- Partner Content -

Entergy’s Energy Smart Program Brings Cost Conscious Innovation to New Orleans

Offering comprehensive energy efficiency at no cost to the consumer, Entergy’s Energy Smart program incentivizes Entergy New Orleans customers to perform energy-saving upgrades in...

Interestingly, the Port’s success with upgrades to its Globalplex complex on the East Bank of the Mississippi River roughly a decade ago served as the blueprint for how acquiring Avondale Global Gateway could better serve businesses. Able to secure federal and state funding, the Port constructed a $22 million, 700-foot-long Finger Pier at Globalplex in 2013 to facilitate berths of two vessels simultaneously along with the purchase of two mobile cranes for on-loading and off-loading. 

At Avondale, the Port will be able to berth six vessels on the West Bank of the Mississippi River.

“What we learned at Globalplex, and in turn why Avondale was a site that interested us, was that in the end it was a win-win,” Matthews said. “Through Globalplex, we were able to serve the needs of our clients while at the same time fulfilling the Port’s goals and mission, which has always been job creation and generating tax revenue to benefit the residents of Louisiana.

- Sponsors -

Matthews said that in the end, having the capacity to move the maximum amount of cargo possible is what makes the Port successful. And Avondale ups that capacity substantially. “It’s really a ‘gamechanger’ as far as maximizing the amount of cargo we can move,” he said.

As a public entity, the Port’s ability to secure federal and state-level grants could expedite on-site development, economic growth and employment opportunities at Avondale Global Gateway. Upon reopening the once-shuttered Avondale site, the private owners and operators did pour money into several improvements, renovations and additions, including the purchase of three ship-to-shore cranes, and infrastructure improvements that transformed Avondale into a true intermodal hub for international trade. Still, despite those impressive efforts, the current Avondale site is only operating at 25 percent capacity. 

Once the transaction is complete, T. Parker Host will stay on as the day-to-day operator of the facility, meaning all current employees at Avondale will be retained as the Port hopes to grow on the site’s early success. Despite dealing with a global pandemic, Avondale handled a half-million tons of cargo in 2020. This past year, that total exceeded 1 million tons. In the short-term, the Port of South Louisiana intends for those numbers to spike drastically as it continues to serve its clients, particularly those who deal in traditional energy sources. 

With that said, Matthews and other Port officials view Avondale as a key cog in their efforts to facilitate “energy diversity.” They believe long term that the Avondale site, with its 8,000 linear feet of Mississippi River frontage to handle deep-water cargo, will be an attractive location for renewable energy investments and help make Louisiana a leader in what many economists believe will be a major financial/industrial sector in the future.

In particular, the Avondale location would be an ideal site for renewable-energy manufacturing, the construction of wind turbines and blades, for example. More than a dozen “legacy buildings” still stand throughout the expansive Avondale property, meaning future manufacturing tenants could use or remodel existing infrastructure to fit their specific needs, as opposed to spending additional time and money constructing from scratch. Incoming raw materials or outgoing completed products could be transported via barge, truck or rail. 

“This is a new day at the Port,” said Micah Cormier, the Port of South Louisiana’s director of communications. “Our commissioners, our team, our partners, are very bullish on growth. As the largest port in the state and the second largest in the western hemisphere, it’s imperative that we continue to build and take advantage of smart growth opportunities, like Avondale, when they arise in order to maximize our ability to keep high-paying quality careers in the state, bring in new high-playing quality jobs and careers, and solidify the region as a major player in the global economy.”

Digital Sponsors / Become a Sponsor

Follow the issues, companies and people that matter most to business in New Orleans.

Email Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter