Bond Commission Delays Vote on Financing for Avondale Purchase

BATON ROUGE — Members of the state Bond Commission will wait a month to vote on whether to approve financing necessary for the Port of South Louisiana to purchase Avondale Global Gateway from maritime company T. Parker Host for $330 million.

The decision was made during the commission’s Sept. 21 meeting in Baton Rouge.

Host purchased the former Avondale Shipyard from Huntington Ingalls in 2018 for $60 million. It says it spent around $90 million on improvements since then to bring the site back into commerce as a logistics hub. In January, PortSL announced a plan to buy Avondale from Host for $445 million. After months of criticism about the price tag, the two parties agreed to the renegotiated price, which was announced earlier this month.

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Host and PortSL hope Avondale will become a manufacturing hub as well, with a focus on renewable energy, food and construction materials. Renewable energy company Gulf Wind Technology is among a handful of current smaller tenants that point toward the project’s as-yet-unrealized potential.

At the Sept. 21 meeting, after making their case for the deal and answering tough questions from state officials, PortSL leaders asked the commission to “defer a formal vote for one month to allow for additional time for the members to review the extensive reviews that took place to justify the purchase,” according to a port spokesperson.

“The Port of South Louisiana’s purchase of Avondale Global Gateway is one of the most transformational opportunities for the River Parishes in a generation,” said Paul Matthews, CEO of Port of South Louisiana. “If approved, this once bustling commerce hub will put the Port of South Louisiana on track to compete with ports in our neighboring states across the Gulf Coast and around the world.”

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State officials, meanwhile, had questions about the deal’s price tag, Host’s profit margin, what additional spending will be required and how the state will be protected in case the Port defaults on its loans. They also asked for more details about exactly what improvements Host has made and exactly how much they cost.

Another point of concern was a provision in the deal that calls for the port to pay Host $500,000 if the Bond Commission rejects the financing for the purchase.

Over the next month, PortSL officials plan to meet with Bond Commission members to address all questions and concerns before the October meeting.

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“This is a massive undertaking, and we understand members need additional time to review the comprehensive reports that we have commissioned,” said Matthews. “While time is of the essence, we want to be respectful of their requests and look to finalize this acquisition at the next Bond Commission meeting.”

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