Port NOLA hit with lawsuit aiming to halt construction of its new $1.8 bln terminal

In a clash that has ignited legal flames in the heart of Louisiana, the St. Bernard Parish District Attorney’s Office has filed a lawsuit against the Port of New Orleans to halt the construction of a proposed $1.8 billion container terminal, the Louisiana International Terminal, in the Violet area.

Illustration; Image by PortNOLA

The lawsuit, filed in the 34th Judicial District Court, St. Bernard Parish District Attorney Perry Nicosia asserted that the Port of New Orleans lacks the authority to establish a shipping facility within the boundaries of St. Bernard Parish and that the construction should be stopped.

Aside from the jurisdictional issues, certain organizations from the local community believe that the terminal would be detrimental to the parish community and the environment.

The Port NOLA has purchased the 1,100-acre plot of land on the Mississippi River in Violet and made a deal with the Port of St Bernard to build the giant terminal.

However, the lawsuit argues that the deal between the two port authorities granting the Port NOLA permission to operate a terminal in the parish is not legal.

Port Nola’s rationale for the project is rooted in its belief that a downriver container terminal is essential for the port to remain competitive among other Gulf South ports, especially in accommodating large ships.

Port Nola CEO Brandy Christian, responding to the lawsuit, called it ‘preposterous’ and dismissed it as ‘election-year theatrics’, WWLTV reported.

Last year, the project secured a significant boost with private operators committing $800 million to fund the terminal’s construction and infrastructure enhancements.

Namely, New Jersey-based Ports America, and one of North America’s largest marine terminal operators Mediterranean Shipping Company, through MSC’s terminal investment arm Terminal Investment Limited (TiL), committed $800 million toward the project.

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Recent approvals by Port Nola’s board have greenlit contracts worth $8 million, which will pave the way for the terminal’s design and eventual construction.

The new Louisiana International Terminal (LIT) in St. Bernard Parish will be able to serve vessels of all sizes, dramatically increasing Louisiana’s import and export capacity and stimulating the creation of more than 17,000 new jobs statewide by 2050, Port NOLA estimates.

The project is currently in the design and permitting phase of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental review process. Barring unforeseen delays, construction is slated to begin in 2025 and the first berth to open in 2028.

At full build-out, LIT will be able to handle 2 million TEUs annually, taking advantage of the deeper 50-foot Lower Mississippi River Ship Channel and avoiding height restrictions from Mississippi River bridges further up the river.

At opening, the terminal is scheduled to accept between 180,000 – 280,000 containers in the first year. The port estimates it may take 25 years to reach the terminal’s maximum annual capacity, which is 1.2 million containers (2 million TEU) per year.

The proposed terminal layout is still under development. The latest design incorporates investments in shore power, which can reduce air pollution from ships at berth by up to 98%, manage all terminal drainage on-site, including installation of a pump station and maintain access for residents and keep terminal traffic out of the neighborhoods, according to the Port of NOLA.