April 3, 2017
BY FRANK MCCORMACK
The Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District and partner American Patriot Holdings LLC (APH) announced plans March 29 to build the southernmost intermodal container terminal on the Mississippi River between river miles 50 and 55 near Pointe Céleste, La.
Not only that, American Patriot Container Transport LLC (APCT), a wholly-owned subsidiary of APH, revealed plans to construct a first-of-its-kind inland container ship measuring some 772 feet long and 100 feet wide with the capability of carrying close to 2,400 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units).
The announcement last week came as the Plaquemines Port, which manages roughly 100 miles of the Mississippi River leading to the Gulf of Mexico, officially entered into an exclusivity agreement with APH to develop the logistics system to operate the 4,200-acre port. The forthcoming Pointe Céleste Omniport will include multiple deep-water berths, a dedicated APH terminal, warehousing and distribution space, an intermodal transfer facility for rail and highway service, and initial plans to have regular service from Plaquemines Parish to Memphis, Tenn., and St. Louis, Mo.
Plaquemines Port Executive Director Sandy Sanders said the port planned for the Point Céleste site has immense potential.
“We promise a story that folks will read and tell again, again and again,” Sanders said. “It is the story of how Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District greatly impacted the flow of cargo in and out of the United States of America and grew into one of the most important, largest and busiest ports in the nation.”
The port will feature deep-water access to 21,600 linear feet of waterfront, which will accommodate up to three container ships and APCT’s inland container ships simultaneously. Sanders also boasted of the room to grow throughout the parish, the intermodal connectivity and the proximity of the Naval Air Station in Belle Chasse, which could send and receive airborne cargoes.
“Every port in America would build this if they could, but they can’t,” Sanders said. “Only we can.”
The competitiveness of the port hinges on APCT’s inland container ship, designed in conjunction with naval architect Naviform Consulting and Research Ltd. The vessel includes an exoskeleton hull structure to maximize container loading and a patented bow design that limits wake and allows the vessel to travel upriver at 13 knots. Propulsion will come from four diesel generators driving azimuthing thrusters and two LNG bow pumps. The thrusters will eliminate the need for assist tugs when docking. Transit from Plaquemines to Memphis is anticipated to take seven days, with passage to St. Louis estimated at 11 days.
APCT has designs for vessels measuring 592, 772 and 952 feet, with a TEU capacity of 1,824, 2,392 and 2,960, respectively. The ships will require only 9 feet of draft. APH has exclusive design and licensing rights. According to APH executive Joe Gehegan, the inland container ships will also offer 40 percent capacity for refrigerated cargo for the movement of cold storage and frozen cargoes.
Container movements on the river systems have long been stymied by the slow rate of speed, limited container capacity and unwillingness for cargo owners to sign on for large movements on the inland waterways. The APH management teams believes the newly designed inland container ship and the company’s feasibility studies have solved that problem.
“Our economics showed significant advantage—very significant advantage—to getting those cargoes into the Midwest and out of the Midwest,” said Bob McCormack, part of the APCT management team.
McCormack said the company’s “pre-feasibility report” looked at waterways, ports and cargoes at current levels. With the speedy transit potential up and down the river aboard the new inland container ships, McCormack said the company anticipates drawing cargoes mainly from the East and West coasts.
Sal Litrico, CEO of American Patriot Container Transport LLC, said the company plans to start with four ships and expand from there. For more information on APH, visit www.americanpatriotholdings.com.
No firm timeline for the port or inland container ships was offered at the media event. The Port of Plaquemines and APCT will now turn their attention to identifying a terminal operator and developing agreements with beneficial cargo owners and ocean carriers. Once a terminal operator is in place, construction at the port is expected to take three to five years. The construction timeline for APCT’s container ships is estimated at 18 months.
The planned container terminal at Pointe Cêleste is the second major announcement to come from Plaquemines Parish since December 2016. Late last year, Venture Global LNG announced plans to build an $8.5 billion LNG liquefaction and export terminal. Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in mid-2018, with phase 1 complete in 2020 and phase 2 complete in 2021.