The Ports Association of Louisiana (PAL) is made up of 21 ports that range in size from some of the largest in the nation to very small facilities that handle little or no tonnage. Each year PAL holds a conference that addresses topics that affect bluewater and brownwater ports.
This year’s conference, held in Houma, La., focused on trends in offshore oil and gas exploration, a topic that is extremely important to many of the state’s ports, particularly smaller ones that service the offshore industry. There were also updates on port security and risk reduction, security issues with respect to chemicals and oil spills, and a discussion on the highly publicized erosion of the state’s coastline.
The state of Louisiana and many of its ports have relied on oil and gas exploration for a long time. The state is the No. 1 producer of oil in the U.S. (includes offshore) and the No. 2 producer of natural gas.
Economist Dr. Loren Scott presented data at the conference that showed how important the oil and gas industry is to the state and its ports. For example, the industry has an annual impact of $92.6 billion on the state, according to Scott’s 2002 report on the energy sector. The oil and gas industry supports over 340,000 jobs in the state and is responsible for $12.1 billion in household earnings. Each refining job supports 10 other jobs in Louisiana and each exploration and production job supports two other jobs.
The overall mood of the conference was upbeat with renewed signs of offshore exploration activity, particularly on the shelf, which has been helped by federal royalty relief incentives. This would be a big boost to ports such as Port Fourchon and Morgan City. Port Fourchon’s facilities are designed and equipped to accommodate the offshore oil industry. While there will never be another boom like there was in the ‘80s, there is hope among these ports that a “mini-boom” will come soon.