Plaquemines Port upgrades could enhance container on vessel shipping on Mississippi River, huge economic impact on Memphis

Via Memphis Business Journal

A proposed shipping freight terminal in Louisiana could have a multibillion-dollar upriver impact on Memphis, create thousands of jobs in the Mid-South, and lead to a flurry of other potential lucrative opportunities, according to local economic development officials.

The Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) for Memphis & Shelby County detailed how a container terminal slated for Plaquemines, Louisiana, would benefit the International Port of Memphis.

Plaquemines Port Harbor & Terminal District signed an exclusive letter of intent (LOI) on Aug. 13 with several potential partners that will result in the development of a multimodal container terminal on the Mississippi River. It could use a Port of Memphis facility as a major hub, according to EDGE.

The signing of the LOI will begin a six-month due diligence period, during which the parties would conduct multiple studies prior to deciding to investment.

The possible site for the container terminal at the Port of Memphis could be the former TVA Allen Fossil Plant near McKellar Lake Harbor.

EDGE said the container on vessel (COV) proposal would see goods moved three times faster than shipping by barge, with a significant time and cost advantage for exports and imports.

Charles Vance, EDGE director of marketing and communications, said if the river systems are connected to the Gulf of Mexico with COV shipping, with Memphis as a primary port along the route, it would have a dramatic impact on regional economy.

“It essentially provides an alternative route to reach the middle of the country rather than the West and East Coasts,” Vance said. “It would be a great benefit to manufacturers and distribution companies located here and would entice others to want to locate to this area. It would open the door to more distribution warehousing capabilities for the entire region. We would essentially have the ability to attract companies from across the world that want to do business in the middle part of the U.S.”

An analysis by Memphis’ Younger Associates estimated construction of the facility at Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park would have a $1 billion, one-time economic impact from development, including supporting more than 14,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction.

Once open, the local container facility could support 3,200 total jobs, generating $200 million in direct and indirect wages, according to the study. It would also have an a $1.5 billion annual economic impact from ongoing operations.

The Louisiana terminal would encompass up to 1,000 acres and 8,200 feet of Mississippi River frontage 50 miles from the Gulf of Mexico.

Phase one of Plaquemines construction would take around two years. It would have the capability to handle 22,000-TEU class vessels, and the port could expand capacity if needed.

American Patriot Holdings (APH) also signed the LOI; its 2,375-TEU liner vessel would provide Mississippi River transports as far north as St. Louis.

The proposal has Memphis and St. Louis as primary hubs in a network that could also include Little Rock and western Arkansas; Joliet, Illinois; and Jefferson City and Kansas City, Missouri.

The International Port of Memphis is the fifth-largest inland port in the nation and has a $9.27 billion annual economic impact.