The Lower Mississippi River Deep-Draft Port Complex is the largest in the United States with over 250 miles of deep-draft shipping channels that offer waterborne access into 30 other states via over 12,000 miles of inland waterways. The five deep-draft ports of this corridor (Baton Rouge, South Louisiana, New Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines) move approximately 500 million tons of cargoes each year. The Port of New Orleans, for example, ranks among the top ten ports by tonnage, services cruise ships, providing additional contribution to the local economy through tourism revenues. The Port of South Louisiana alone ships more than 200 million tons of cargo annually — more tonnage than any other port in the Western Hemisphere.

Louisiana contains 500 miles of navigation channels. Southern Louisiana ports carry 20 percent of all U.S. waterborne commerce (473 million tons annually), 40 percent of all grain exports and 14 percent of U.S. crude oil imports. With over 100 major petrochemical plants, Louisiana provides the basic raw materials that are shipped around the country and world to create plastics, fertilizers and a vast array of other products.

Additionally, Louisiana's waterways and port industry:

  • Ship more than $130 billion worth of commodities to the rest of the country every year
  • Contribute $47.7 billion per year to the U.S. economy
  • Employ 281,590 people

As Louisiana's coast erodes, the shipping industry is at risk because critical infrastructure becomes more vulnerable to extreme storms. Port Fourchon is a major staging area for the offshore oil industry, and it suffered damage from Hurricanes Lili, Gustav and Isaac. Knowing this risk, leaders in the navigation industry have been supportive of coastal restoration and are working on ways to increase beneficial use of dredged material as a component of coastal restoration. Navigation interests are also working to increase allocations from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, another way to potentially increase funding for restoration, as well as for needed maintenance of our shipping infrastructure.

Coastal wetlands can protect and buffer Louisiana's navigation channels and ports from the damaging effects of storms and hurricanes. For example, sand dunes have been reconstructed at Port Fourchon to provide a necessary layer of protection. A comprehensive coastal restoration effort, as set forth in the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan, can help protect this regionally and nationally significant shipping industry.