President Barack Obama toured the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal and spoke to a crowd of more than 500 on the importance of growing the nation’s economy through increased exports. “This is one of the busiest port complexes in the entire world,” President Obama told the crowd following a tour of the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal. “You move millions of tons of steel and chemicals and fuel and food every single year. And, in so many ways, this Port is representative of what ports all around the country do: They help to keep our economy going – moving products, moving people, making sure that businesses are working.”
President Obama highlighted the 60 percent of the nation’s grain that is exported by ports along the Lower Mississippi River from states, such as his home state of Illinois.
“Corn and wheat from my home state come down the River, ending up here and going all around the world,” President Obama said. “Part of the reason why we’ve been able to increase exports so rapidly, is because we’ve got some of the best natural resources, waterways and facilities in the world.”
The President toured the container terminal with Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange, Ports America General Manager Keith Palmisano, ILA longshoreman Chris Hammond, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Congressman Cedric Richmond.
“Today was a monumental occasion, as we hosted our 44th President Barack Obama,” LaGrange told the crowd. “We are here today at one of the most robust ports in the world within the world’s largest port complex – the Lower Mississippi River. This River serves 62 percent of the nation’s consumer spending public. That’s 32 states and two Canadian provinces. We are truly the gateway to America and the world. And as the global and national economy continues to recover and grow, international trade will fuel that growth.”
President Obama cited federal investments made into the Port, such as a $16.7 million TIGER grant in 2012, which is being used to fund the Mississippi River Intermodal Terminal. The project will include reconfiguring a 12-acre rail yard adjacent to the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal. The new rail yard will be modernized into an efficient intermodal transfer facility making the movement of goods safer, cheaper and more sustainable.
The new rail terminal will add 200,000 TEUs or twenty-foot-equivalent units of capacity annually to the container terminal – bringing its total annual capacity to 840,000 TEUs.
During the tour, LaGrange promoted major projects such as deepening the Mississippi River from its current 45-47-foot draft to 50 feet – the same project draft of the new Panama Canal Locks. A recent study by noted economist Dr. Tim Ryan determined a deeper River would create $11.49 billion in US production, generate 17,000 new jobs and mean $849 million in increased income for American workers. Additionally, the study found for every $1 spent on the project, it would generate $89.40 in benefits.
LaGrange also focused on further infrastructure investment needs within the container terminal, such as the completion of its second and third phases. Overall, $523 million is needed to complete the terminal – adding an additional 600,000 TEUs of capacity and bringing the total capacity of the terminal to 1.53 million TEUs annually.