Gulf of Mexico
Container ship is unloaded at the Napoleon Avenue terminal, Port of New Orleans. Wikipedia

LA - The 'portable port': New Orleans was built on shipping, but its center of gravity continues to shift

Unlike port cities, which usually expand outwardly from fixed historical cores, ports themselves tend to be rather portable. Needing to accommodate changing economies and technologies, the wharves and facilities for loading and unloading vessels are often moved to more versatile spaces, else shippers will opt for better ways to get goods to market.

Maritime activity in New York City, for example, was once centered on Manhattan Island; now it’s in the outer boroughs and New Jersey.

Ships that once called at San Francisco now go to Oakland, while those that dock at Seattle can also go to Tacoma.

New Orleans’s port, too, has shifted over the centuries, and another big move appears to be forthcoming.

Last month, the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans unanimously approved the acquisition of 1,100 acres in the St. Bernard Parish community of Violet, fronting the Mississippi and straddling the Violet Canal.

The chief motivator behind the downriver expansion is to accommodate the next generation of containerized ships, which are designed to take advantage of the recently widened Panama Canal. These enlarged vessels have higher vertical clearance and deeper water-draft needs than those that currently dock at the Uptown wharves.

Docking at Violet would avoid the height restriction imposed by the Crescent City Connection, and benefit from the current Army Corps of Engineers program to dredge the river to a depth of 50 feet. This semi-rural part of St. Bernard Parish has the available space, while still being within the federal levee system. Being farther downriver, it also eliminates 15 miles of river navigation in each direction, saving time and fuel.

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