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Port of Lake Charles: Supporting America’s Shipping Corridor

Located in Louisiana, The Port of Lake Charles is a deepwater seaport along the Calcasieu Ship Channel which runs north of the US Gulf Coast. Encompassing roughly 203 square miles of prime channel-side real estate, the port is now the 12th busiest across the nation and annually handles over 56 million tons of breakbulk and bulk cargo travelling along the channel. Therefore, the Port of Lake Charles continues to play a pivotal role in developing the economic landscape of Louisiana through vital cargo shipment and handling facilities. 

The Port of Lake Charles is responsible for managing the Calcasieu Ship Channel which runs inland 36 miles and extends out into the Gulf of Mexico a further 32 miles. This Ship Channel drives almost $40 billion of the US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as it facilitates the shipment of cargo and materials across the Gulf Coast of America. Therefore, the Port of Lake Charles provides essential cargo and landlord services and today is regarded as the 14th busiest port district in the nation as ranked by the US Army Corps of Engineers based on tonnage.  

The Port opened in 1926 following its authorization by Act 67 of the Louisiana Legislature just a few years earlier. The official title of the port upon opening is The Lake Charles Harbour and Terminal District, a title the port has kept to this day.  However, since its origins the role of the port has continued to expand and now is annually responsible for helping the shipment of vital cargo such as forest material, aluminium ingots, grain, rice, petroleum and petroleum products, frac sand, and heavy lift project cargos. All of these cargos are handled by the port and delivered to the vital land logistical infrastructure across Louisiana.   

The Port of Lake Charles is governed by a 7-member board of commissioners who are responsible for overseeing the 2 marine terminals and the 500 acres of property which make up the Lake Charles Harbour and Terminal District. Therefore, serving as the landlord to companies across the port property as well as various other leasable sites near the Calcasieu Ship Channel, the Port of Lake Charles plays an expansive and committed role in ensuring the development of the Louisiana region via the port’s services and land.  

A key part of the Port of Lake Charles’ operation is in marine shipping. The port has developed a custom shipping solution which delivers big results for the shipping channel. This includes the City Dock Facility, where the majority of cargo operations take place. It includes 12 deep water berths, where cargo is offloaded or loaded. The berths have a projected depth of 35 feet (ft), with berth 8 having a depth of 40 ft which is used for bulk grain shipments. The facility also includes a 1.6 million square foot of covered storage for warehouse services. The City Dock Facility is located close to essential rail links making it an ideal location to connect the port to the rest of the state and beyond.   

The Port’s Bulk Terminal No.1 provides 7 acres of dry bulk terminals at the Rose Bluff Cutoff along the Calcasieu Ship Channel and can accommodate 2 vessels for loading and unloading. Furthermore, the terminal also operates 2 travelling ship loaders and 2 travelling clamshell bucket unloaders, these include a pet coke ship loader which can facilitate 3,200 short tons per hour, and a calcined coke ship loader with a capacity for 1,200 short tons per hour. Bulk Terminal No.1 provides vessel-to-vessel, vessel-to-truck, or vessel-to-open storage solutions. Consequently, the terminal processes more than 3.1 million short tons of dry bulk material annually which includes petroleum coke, calcined coke, barite, rutile, and other dry bulk commodities. In addition, the port is home to Bulk Terminal No.4 which deals in aggregates and is leased to a private company. The Terminal has a 251ft dock face, which can extend to 355 ft with dolphins and has a depth of 35 ft to help move more than 1 million metric tons of imported aggregate annually. 

The facilities at the port have been designed to deal in such high quantities of multiple different types of cargo including break-bulk, speciality, heavy-lift, and project cargo from industrial components to forest/lumber products. Whilst the port facilities help to optimise the efficiency of shipment across the terminals, the port is also in a great strategic location just 12 miles upriver from the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, is close to rail lines (Port Rail) and only 2.5 miles from an interstate. Therefore, the shipment of cargo from the port across land logistical services is made so much easier. Therefore, it is no surprise that the port trades with more than 70 countries around the world thanks to its reputation as the port of choice along the shipping channel.  

As the company looks towards the future it is set on developing facilities at the Port of Lake Charles to cope with the $46 billion worth of pre-planned projects set to take place along the ship channel. This will add a further 90.8 million tons of cargo to the existing 56 million tons already travelling through the channel and port every year. The port has already begun inputting new port docks which can accommodate loads of 1500-2000 pounds per square foot, which is almost 4 times the strength of its current berths. This is part of more than $287 million in capital projects which are planned over the next decade to expand the port’s role and capacity as it continues to be a key player in world trade and speciality cargo.  

Another key development for the future is the opening of Cameron LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) Facility which will handle the exports of coke by-products from local petroleum refining, imported lumber, exported bagged and bulk grain, wind energy equipment, project cargo, limestone, rutile, barite, rubber, and chemical products.  As this development will take place on the leased land of the Lake Charles Harbour and Terminal District, it will continue to establish the port as a key player for international shipping of cargo.  

Overall, the Port of Lake Charles is home to one of the most pivotal ports along the Calcasieu Ship Channel and is responsible for developing a significant part of the Louisiana economy thanks to cargo shipment both into and out of the country. With key developments set to take place over the coming years to meet the growing demand for shipments along the Calcasieu Ship Channel, we look forward to seeing how the port’s facilities continue to expand and meet the needs of the future as a leading port and cargo terminal.