Plans for new NOLA intermodal hub

Written by Stuart Chirls, senior editor, Railway Age
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The former Avondale shipyard site is west of New Orleans’ city center, and just north of Union Pacific’s Avondale yard. Photo: Google Maps

The Port of New Orleans has given its blessing, and more, for a plan to redevelop a defunct city shipyard into an intermodal terminal.

A new joint venture has acquired the former Avondale shipyard, a 206-acre site that under Northrup Grumman Corp. constructed its last ship for the Navy in 2013 and was once the largest private employer in Louisiana.

No terms were disclosed.

Six Class I railroads serve the Port, which is actively looking to expand its rail service after acquiring the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad from the city earlier this year. Since the opening of an expanded Panama Canal, the Gulf Coast hub is looking to grow container traffic that has lagged behind oil, gas and other commodity shipments. Union Pacific operates Avondale Yard just south of the shipyard.

The venture, HRE New Orleans, includes shipping agent T. Parker Host of Norfolk, Va., and Hilco Global, an Illinois-based financial services firm that helped develop the Tradepoint Atlantic logistics park and multimodal hub on the site of the closed Bethlehem Steel mill near Baltimore.

Hilco in August executed a purchase-and-sale agreement with Huntington Ingalls Industries for the former shipyard, situated on the West Bank, which has more than 7,900 feet of deepwater riverfront access. The site is now under contract to HRE.

The Port of New Orleans’ Dock Board on March 22 passed a resolution supporting Avondale’s redevelopment. The two sides also have reached general consensus on how a private terminal would operate within the port’s jurisdiction, such as adopting the port’s tariff structure, to avoid the privately-owned terminal underpricing the port’s cargo business.

“For a site as large and complex as the former Avondale shipyard, there’s a confluence of many factors necessary to get it back into commerce,” Mike Sherman, a New Orleans attorney who is representing the joint venture, told The Advocate.

Developers are expected to go before Jefferson Parish officials in the coming weeks.

“Our hope is that we’ll see workers on site before the end of the year,” he said.

Categories: Class 1, Intermodal, Shortline/Regional