Ports Finding Themselves in Dire Straits

By Marilyn Monroe
Southwest Daily News
Thu Jun 11, 2009, 06:26 AM CDT

(Sulphur, La.) Ports all around Louisiana are in dire straits. Funding in many ports is exhausted.
“The till is about empty in the ports right now,” said Lynn Hohensee, director of the West
Calcasieu Port, at Wednesday’s meeting of the Sulphur Kiwanis Club.

Currently, the total amount of funding available from the state is around $23 million but that
represents a shortfall of around $55 million from the projected financial need, according to
Hohensee. And monies from the state do not even represent a majority of the funds for
Louisiana’s ports.

“Seventy percent of the funding in our ports is generated internally from the ports themselves,”
said Hohensee, “Thirty percent comes from Baton Rouge.”

That is in stark contrast to neighboring states with port operations in the Gulf. In comparison,
Hohensee pointed out that ports in this state do not have the level of funding support to put
them on par with Texas, Alabama, or Mississippi. Texas alone has spent over $1 billion in the
last five years for their ports as compared to the $450 million Louisiana has spent.

“The state coffers at the state capitals in Texas, Mississippi, [and] Alabama are much more
open to developing their ports.”

And this low level of funding is also not on par with the contributions made by the industry to the
state. A study conducted by Tim Ryan, Ph.D., at the University of New Orleans, found that ports
have contributed five and half million dollars in job revenue, $467 million in tax revenue, and
demonstrated a total impact of $33 billion in the state.

“We represent almost one out of every four dollars of gross state product in the state of
Louisiana,” said Hohensee.

And for every one dollar invested by the state, six dollars are returned.

“This isn’t a risk,” he continued, “We’ve already demonstrated the value we have. All we need is
the support to help grow this and increase that return of investment back into the state of

And for a state like Louisiana, the maritime industry is extremely important.

“A lot of states would like to have the geographic blessing that we have received from nature,”
said Hohensee. “We’re where the oil and gas are, and we have tremendous waterway
resources to help support it.”

The widening of the Panama Canal will also open up more business prospects from Asia, and
Louisiana ports cannot afford to falter in the competition for accommodating those containerized
vessels. Support from the state could be the difference in such a competitive market.

As well, Louisiana’s waterways, unlike in most of country, require a lot of maintenance and
dredging attention, putting a further strain on individual port finances. Southwest Louisiana ports
are especially in need considering that there is a lot of silting in from the river off the shoreline
and from Gulf of Mexico ‘fluff’ sediment that comes in with the tides.

“Our dredging needs are critical,” he said.

“We’ve been having problems for a long time with our facility and our west barge basin,” said
Hohensee in specific regard to his port, “We’re really in bad shape and needing this [dredging

The West Calcasieu Port is currently conducting preparations for dredging work to be completed
by October. The total cost will be $2.31 million. The port has received $1.5 million from the
state, $400,000 from FEMA, $50,000 from the parish, $50,000 from the City of Sulphur, and the
remainder will come from the port’s coffers.

“We have funding of our own in some reserves. It’s not a lot of funding,” said Hohensee, “We’re
a port that has no millage. We have no tax income coming in. All of our income comes in from
tenants of the port.”

“We’re in a financial bind,” he continued. “This is the first time we’ve ever come to the City of
Sulphur for any funding support.”

He also expressed his gratitude to the city for the assistance.

The five current members of the port’s Board of Commissioners are all residents of the
Sulphur/Carlyss area, and the City of Sulphur, through the Council and the mayor, appoints two
of the five members. The remaining three members are appointed by the West Calcasieu
Association of Commerce, local trade unions, and by the Calcasieu Parish Police Jurors
representing Ward 4.

“The City of Sulphur really has 40 percent of our board and the relationship is a close one,” said

He is confident that Sulphur will see a positive return on its ‘investment’.

“We think [that] we have an edge on shallow water transportation support and barging activities
are tremendously growing all along the Gulf coast,” said Hohensee.

“In the long run, the City of Sulphur is going to see a tremendous benefit if we carry off our long
range plan of what we want to do with the West Cal Port, attracting business and industry.”

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