DALLAS — The South Louisiana Port Commission will expand cargo-handling capabilities at the Port of South Louisiana with a new pier financed by $8 million of port revenue bonds.
Joel Chaisson, the port’s executive director, said he expects the bonds to go to market within the next month.
“We’re very close to a sale,” he said. “This is an important project for us because it will make cargo handling at the port more efficient.”
Adams & Reese LLP is bond counsel. Crews & Associates Inc. is financial advisor to the Port Commission.
The agency’s tax-backed debt is rated A1 by Moody’s Investors Service.
In addition to port revenues pledged to debt service, Chaisson said, the bonds will be secured by a mortgage on the dock itself. “We believe the additional pledge will make the bonds more marketable,” he said.
The new finger pier at the port’s Globalplex terminal in Reserve will be 700 feet long and 65 feet wide. It is designed so that large ships capable of transiting the Panama Canal can load or unload on one side while barges and other smaller ships operate on the other side.
The port has received $9 million from Louisiana’s Port Priority fund for the dock, which was the maximum amount any port project could receive.
The fund’s ceiling has been raised to $15 million. Chaisson expects the port will receive $6 million more from the state.
“When this entire project is all over and done, the state will have contributed $15 million with our share being $8 million from the revenue bonds,” he said.
The State Bond Commission in April approved a request by the port for $6 million of grant anticipation notes in addition to the $8 million of revenue bonds.
With the higher ceiling, Chaisson said, the Port Commission does not intend to issue the notes.
Port trustees approved the sale of the revenue bonds on Nov. 8.
The district has the authority for a 5-mill property tax, Chaisson said, but has never asked the public for permission to impose the levy.
“We operate with the revenues from the port, assistance from the state through the capital outlay process, and some federal grants,” he said.
The port encompasses 54 miles of Mississippi riverfront. In addition to water-borne commerce, the port provides shippers with access to rail, road and pipelines, and recently acquired an airport for added flexibility, Chaisson said.
“We are a true intermodal facility,” he said. “We’re in the process of lengthening the airport runways to accommodate larger airplanes.”
The port district stretches along the Mississippi River downstream of New Orleans. It is the largest tonnage port district in the Western Hemisphere. It handled more than 246 million short tons of cargo in 2010. Each year, more than 4,000 oceangoing vessels and 55,000 barges call at the port.
The five port-owned facilities range from grain elevators to warehouses and other general cargo facilities. The ports are leased to operating companies, including Occidental Chemical and Archer Daniels Midland.
“Nine-tenths of Fortune 500 companies have a presence here,” Chaisson said.