At its headwaters in Northern Minnesota, you can walk across the Mississippi River. When the River reaches its destination at the Gulf of Mexico, it is a mile wide. Like the river, St. Bernard Port started on a small scale and has grown into the economic power-house it is today. In 1960, the St. Bernard Port, was set into motion by state legislation enabling its creation, but was not operating as a working port at that time.
Since then, the rest is history. In 1981 the Port’s Board of Commissioners was reconstituted and work begun to develop the St. Bernard Port, Harbor and Terminal District. The Port purchased a small parcel of land on Bayou Bienvenue and started marine operations with a fireboat service provided by the vessel Mr. Jake. Subsequently, the 216 acre KaiserAluminum site was acquired by the Port in 1989 which is now known as the Chalmette Terminal. The first maritime endeavor for this facility was the installation of a tour-boat landing barge for visitors’ arriving by paddle wheeler to visit the Chalmette Battlefield.
That was then, this is now. The Chalmette Terminal’s 216-acre industrial park presently features the tour-boat landing barge, 600,000 sq. ft. of building space and has one deep draft, midstream vessel mooring and barge fleeting facility. The Terminal currently provides lease space for more than 40 tenants. The Port’s state-of-the-art office building includes the offices of the St. Bernard Chamber, Economic Development Foundation, Ports Association of Louisiana, local legislators and is home to our Marine Security Operations Center (MSOC).
What is now known as the Arabi Terminal was established in 1907 as the New Orleans Terminal Company’s loading docks and warehouses. The Terminal contains the only calm water, deep draft slip on the lower Mississippi River. The property later merged into Norfolk Southern Railway System and was eventually purchased by the Port in 1993. Today, the Arabi Terminal features a 40,000 sq. ft. dry bulk storage warehouse, five ship berths, mooring dolphins and 186,000 sq. ft. of dockside transit sheds. There are an additional 200,000 square feet of general warehousing on site and Class-1 rail service along with convenient interstate connectivity.
The Violet Terminal site originally operated a coal chute in the early 1900’s and was near the intersection of the Violet Canal Locks and the Mississippi River. In 2012 the Port acquired this site and has made improvements to the 72 plus acres of land and 4,300 linear feet on the Mississippi River. There are midstream operations occurring at Violet and in Meraux, with one set of mooring buoys capable of accommodating Cape Verde sized ocean going vessels carrying over 80,000 tons of cargo.
Growth in cargo handling continued in 2015, with 342 ocean going ships choosing St. Bernard Port as their Port of Call. Port owned facilities handled over 7,500,000 tons of cargo. Bulk, break bulk and general cargos were trans-loaded at the port to land, barge, rail and trucks delivering to destinations throughout the U.S. and around the world. The Port’s cargo statistics have increased from a low of 400,000 net tons in 1999 to our biggest year of 10,200,000 tons in 2012 an increase of 2400% (percent) over 14 years. The Port, its tenants and users of the Port’s facilities produce an estimated $325 million annually for the local economy. Today’s estimated net worth of the Port is $120 million. St. Bernard Port’s forty-plus occupied lease areas create over 800 direct, full-time jobs. In addition, port related business activity in the region generates more than 1,200 jobs for a total of 2,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Creating jobs and economic opportunity for the citizens of St. Bernard Parish has always been the Port’s mission. The future is just as promising as our successful past. Projects underway or in the planning stages include the completion of an 84,000 sq. ft. warehouse and infrastructure improvements at the Chalmette Terminal. Rehabilitation work on Docks 1 and 2 of the Arabi Terminal will continue. A state-of-the art surveillance system, access control security system and a communications tower is under construction at the Violet Terminal along with planned infrastructure improvements.
Building on the foundation of our successful past, it is with the mindful efforts of our Board of Commissioners, legislative delegates, private enterprises and the Port’s employees and administration that we have created a team that works diligently to enable the St. Bernard Port, Harbor and Terminal District to advance competitively into the future.
Robert J. Scafidel, Executive Director