Engineering firm selected for $1.5 billion offshore port

Bechtel has been selected to provide preconstruction and engineering work for the Louisiana International Gulf Transfer Terminal, a $1.5 billion project that backers say will create 34,000 jobs in the state.

The engineering and construction company will provide preliminary services for overseeing the design and permitting of the terminal, a 250-acre deepwater facility that will be south of the mouth of the Mississippi River, along the major shipping channel of the Southwest Pass.

State Sen. A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell, president of the Louisiana International Gulf Transfer Terminal Authority, said Bechtel is working out of an office in New Orleans.

“They’re going to provide a timeline for all the steps that are necessary,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of work.”

Crowe is a longtime backer of the port, which would transfer cargo from massive vessels, capable of carrying 18,000 shipping containers at a time to smaller ships that would then distribute the goods.

The LIGTT would be the only deepwater port on the Gulf of Mexico capable of handling oceangoing ships that would be too large to go through the Panama Canal even after its current expansion.

This would allow the Mississippi River to serve as a third major point of entry to Middle America, complementing major ports on the East and West coasts.

“This is an innovative infrastructure project that will help the United States in the Post-Panamax era, by enabling the nation to handle the larger ships of tomorrow, while increasing the utilization and efficiency of our extensive inland waterway system,” said Walker Kimball, managing director of Bechtel’s global infrastructure business.

Crowe said the LIGTT will be a $1.5 billion private project that will create 34,000 permanent jobs in Louisiana and 180,000 jobs in 32 states. Work has been going on behind the scenes to arrange funding sources for the project.

“We have really not had a tremendous amount of outside publicity, but we’ve been getting things lined up in a row,” he said. Hiring Bechtel, which has overseen more than 80 port and harbor projects around the world, from Los Angeles to Saudi Arabia, is another step in the process.

“This is exciting news for Louisiana,” Crowe said.