A marketing agreement signed recently could help spur commerce between New Orleans and the southern Illinois - St. Louis, Mo. region.

The Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans and the Tri-City Regional Port District signed a three-year marketing agreement to develop waterborne commerce between both ports’ regions and capitalize on the numerous shallow-draft carriers serving the inland river system.

“Historically, we’ve had strong ties and a successful working relationship with the Tri-City Regional Port District,” said Gary LaGrange, President and CEO of the Port of New Orleans. “We’ve established sister-port agreements between the two ports in the past and this agreement will only serve to strengthen that relationship.”

Charles King, Jr., chairman of the Tri-City Regional Port District, referred to both Port’s as “neighbors serving America’s heartland.”

“We serve many of the same markets in the heartland of America,” King said. “And we felt a strong tug at our heartstrings following Hurricane Katrina because we had a similar disaster here – the Mississippi River flood of 1993. I consider both ports partners in progress – both located on the most vital waterway in the nation.”

Under the agreement, port staff will focus on the natural geographic partnership and promote the use of the each other’s facilities. Officials hope to focus marketing efforts on the breadth of shallow-draft carriers serving the nation’s 14,500-mile inland waterway system; work jointly to maximize the potential of rail links between the ports with emphasis on containerized intermodal business; and identify and facilitate NAFTA-related commerce between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The Tri-City Regional Port District is a 1,200-acre facility in southwest Illinois, just minutes from downtown St. Louis. The Port moves more than 3 million tons of cargo annually by barge, rail and truck and has numerous industrial properties available for lease and development. The District is located in the cities of Granite City, Madison and Venice, Ill. The Port and its tenants offer a wide range of services and facilities including barge, rail and truck transfer; industrial, commercial and residential development sites; and warehouse and commercial lease opportunities.

The Port of New Orleans is located at the center of the world’s busiest port complex – Louisiana’s Lower Mississippi River. Its proximity to the American Midwest via a 14,500-mile inland waterway system, six Class One railroads and the interstate highway system makes New Orleans the port of choice for the movement of cargoes such as steel, rubber, coffee, containers and manufactured goods.