Port NOLA Appoints Ronald Wendel Jr. Acting President and CEO

NEW ORLEANS – On May 21, the board of commissioners of the Port of New Orleans formally selected Ronald J. Wendel Jr. to become the acting president and CEO of Port NOLA and acting CEO of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad.

Wendel, who is the port’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, will assume leadership in June after the departure of President and CEO Brandy Christian, who is leaving her post — and New Orleans — to take over as CEO of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Patriot Rail Company. 

A Port NOLA spokesperson said that Wendel, who joined the port in 2015, is ready to lead the management of key initiatives. Top of the list, no doubt, is gaining approval for the port’s proposed $1.8 billion Louisiana International Terminal, which is about 30 months into a three-year Army Corps of Engineers permitting process.

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Port leaders believe the proposed terminal in Violet, La., which will accommodate vessels nearly twice as large as those the port currently serves from its facility on Tchoupitoulas Street, is essential for it to keep pace with its competitors in Mobile and Houston.

“The Port NOLA board and its executive team are focused on ensuring a smooth and transparent process to maintain operational continuity during this leadership transition period,” said Board Chairman Walter Leger Jr. in a press release. “We are confident in Wendel’s experience and welcome the opportunity to work alongside him and the Port NOLA / NOPB teams to drive growth and success. Simultaneously, the board is committed to ensuring a thoughtful process for determining the permanent president and CEO of Port NOLA and CEO of NOPB. We will continue engaging with the Governor’s office, state officials, the maritime industry, and other stakeholders to ensure that the state’s priorities, including the Louisiana International Terminal at Violet and any additional port infrastructure projects, are given the foremost consideration to drive Louisiana toward the top of the global supply chain.

A spokesperson said that Wendel has been a “key figure” in securing $800 million in commitments from potential private Louisiana International Terminal operators Ports America and Terminal Investment Limited. He’s also credited with spearheading an improvement in Port NOLA’s bond rating while financing more than $260 million in public and private placement bonds to fund capital projects, including the $140 million expansion of the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal.

“We are grateful for Brandy Christian’s visionary leadership and contributions to Port NOLA and NOPB throughout her tenure, which have set the stage for continued progress and success,” said Wendel. “I am proud to have been part of the management team that Brandy developed over the past nine years and even more humbled for the opportunity to work alongside our staff and stakeholders in a new role to drive innovation, enhance efficiency, and foster sustainable growth.”

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