That Southwest Louisiana has six ports may come as a surprise to many people — and that’s something one local group hopes to change.
Two years ago, representatives from each of the six ports began meeting quarterly to discuss common problems and solutions. The meetings evolved into the Southwest Louisiana Port Network.
Its members are the Port of Lake Charles, the east and west Cameron ports, the West Calcasieu Port, and the Mermentau River and Vinton harbor and terminal districts.
“The Southwest Louisiana maritime industry is in a better position to react to opportunities in concert, rather than separately,” said Lynn Hohensee, West Calcasieu Port director.
Ernest Broussard, director of planning and development for Cameron Parish and an agent for both of the parish’s ports, agrees.
“As the port and the parish partner to pursue economic development, the professional relationship established with the other ports really does create a synergy for the entire region,” he said.
“Each member of the network is an excellent platform to project the collective maritime strengths of the region, with each entity having a unique niche in the industrial base without really competing among its stakeholders.”
What they’re selling Southwest Louisiana’s ports are commercial gateways — via deep water, planes, trains — to many of the region’s major industries.
“These ports, first and foremost, are economic development engines, each with the ability to recruit businesses and create jobs,” Hohensee said.
“All of the ports working together are making coordinated regional economic development their top priority .”
The state offers a 5 percent tax credit to those who invest in ports, and property tax abatements and Gulf Opportunity Zone bonds remain available for the seven hardest-hit parishes, according to Hohensee.
Also of interest to potential clients is the availability of land at the ports. Hohensee said most major ports in the U.S. are landlocked and have nothing to offer those looking to build. And, according to the Waterways Council, a maritime public policy advocate, moving freight by water is the most energy efficient and environmentally sound commodities transport method.
According to the council, barges can move a ton of cargo 576 miles for every gallon of fuel; the distances for a rail car and a truck are 413 and 155 miles.
From the beginning, the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance has backed the network with support and suggestions.
The alliance has underwritten the cost of a network brochure and has paid for its involvement in regional trade shows.
They sponsored a 30-second television ad that ran throughout the region between October and December.
“It gives us a stronger story to tell if we can talk about six ports each with their own specialties. Their willingness to work together sends a tremendous signal to those looking to locate here,” said alliance President George Swift.
“We’ll be able to point prospects in the best direction for them.”SW LA. PORTS
Each of the six ports within the Southwest Louisiana Port Network has its own niche:

The Port of Lake Charles — A general cargo port located 34 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico. Its jurisdiction encompasses about 65 miles of waterway. It has a 95-acre dock facility that handles grain and a 71-acre bulk terminal at Rose Bluff Cutoff that handles petroleum coke, wood chips and other dry bulk commodities.
It has four properties for lease: 170 acres off Lincoln Road; 296 acres in the Industrial Park East near Chennault; 54 acres in Westlake on the Calcasieu River; and 98 acres off the Calcasieu Ship Channel.
The West Cameron Port — A deepwater access port located on the Gulf; it has shallow draft capabilities and is home to two LNG plants, with a third set to be constructed in the next three years.
The East Cameron Port — It grants access to the Gulf through the Mermentau River estuary and offers properties and large infrastructure. It and the western port account for about 60 percent of the revenue for Cameron Parish.
The West Calcasieu Port — A 190-acre port located halfway between Houston and New Orleans on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, two miles west of the Calcasieu Ship Channel and close to Interstate 10. It accommodates repair and construction support businesses and a barge-towing provider.
Vinton Harbor and Terminal District — The port, reopened a decade ago after a period of inactivity, sits seven miles north of the Intracoastal Waterway. It comprises 320 acres of land, a small dock and a 20,500-square-foot commercial building.
Mermentau River Harbor and Terminal District — The port, located on the Mermentau River, one mile north of U.S. 90, features a slip and 12 acres of land. Its cargo includes inbound aggregates, fertilizer, rough rice, rice hull compost, and outbound rice and soybeans.