Cutting-edge technology makes the state’s enhanced river logistics system one-of-a-kind.
Your business success requires providing clients an exceptional array of goods and services, but your company’s growth depends upon logistics and transportation networks that enable domestic and international trade. Louisiana’s extensive port system, proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and central location, make it a powerful hub of global and domestic commerce. It’s the right place, at the right time, to invest for your growing business.
Louisiana’s natural and man-made logistical advantages have placed it at the epicenter of world trade for centuries. Thomas Jefferson recognized its unique geography, purchasing Louisiana from the French to facilitate shipping commerce from the Gulf of Mexico to the Midwest and America’s growing heartland.
Over time, Louisiana became a worldwide leader in exports of cotton, rice, soybeans and grain and imports of steel, rubber, coffee, fruits and vegetables.
Advancements aid Louisiana’s far-reaching ports
Innovation, as well as location, have driven Louisiana’s centuries-long leadership as a center of domestic and international trade. Commerce and continuous investment equips the state with a world-class trade, transportation and logistics system, as evidenced by:
● Six Mississippi River deep draft ports, combining to handle the most domestic cargo in the nation.
● Six Class I railroads, spanning over 3,000 miles. New Orleans is the only place in America where six Class I railroads converge with a deepwater seaport.
● More than 1,000 miles of interstate, connecting all corners of the state with major regional markets such as Atlanta, Dallas and Houston.
● Nearly 50,000 miles of pipelines, integrated to crisscross every major highway, railroad and navigable waterway in the state.
● Seven commercial airports, including Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, recently named North America’s No. 1 large airport by J.D. Power for customer satisfaction.
● The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the nation’s first and only deepwater oil port.
Those long-term infrastructure investments are a big reason why Louisiana’s ports now carry 25 percent of all U.S. waterborne commerce, 60 percent of the nation’s grain and 20 percent of the nation’s coal. It’s also the reason Louisiana is home to five of the top 15 ports by tonnage in the United States.
SmartPort: Louisiana’s cutting-edge logistics technology
In 2021, a forward-thinking partnership between the U.S. Department of Commerce, LED and the state of Louisiana and the nonprofit Water Institute of the Gulf is developing the Lower Mississippi River SmartPort & Resilience Center, or SmartPort, to bring river navigation into the digital age.
Offering real-time data that can be shared by port administrators, shippers, tenants, cargo and ground transportation providers, Louisiana’s SmartPort solution has been compared to the Waze motorist app, giving information that boosts efficiency by allowing users to assess critical operational factors such as tracking currents, river congestion, visibility and weather conditions.
SmartPort integrates crowdsourced data from vessels with official survey data and artificial intelligence to develop accurate, immediate and actionable assessments of vital port and river conditions, including shoals, river depths, vessel congestion, visibility and other conditions. Its unique data-sharing solution enables the full spectrum of stakeholders — from captains to cargo companies and port operators — to pinpoint potential delays in operations and, in the process, significantly improve their logistical capabilities.
The contributions of SmartPort go beyond the day-to-day navigation of the river as it encompasses management of the river itself. Measuring sediment buildup is one of its most useful tools, providing real-time monitoring for dredging analysis.
Launch partners line up with Phase 2 plan in place
Eight Louisiana ports — Lake Providence, Madison, Vidalia, Baton Rouge, South Louisiana, New Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines — will be the first to deploy the SmartPort conditions assessment solution. The U. S. Department of Commerce, the State of Louisiana and other partners have pledged an additional $3 million combined to broaden the program’s reach by funding construction of a regional data sharing exchange and emergency operations center.
"Dynamic water levels, sedimentation, and reduced visibility are major challenges for ports all along the Mississippi River and beyond,” says Justin Ehrenwerth, the Water Institute's president and CEO. “Leveraging existing technology and developing new predictive tools will allow us to address some of the most pressing challenges of today while anticipating those of tomorrow."
In that way, SmartPort is just the latest in a long history of infrastructure reinventions. Businesses that locate in Louisiana are beneficiaries of a centuries-long determination to develop the technologies, partnerships, policies and programs that reinforce the state’s preeminence as a center of global trade.