Cargo tonnage levels during the first five months of 2006 are up more than four percent compared to the same period’s average over the last four years. The Port achieved the milestone, despite losing nearly 25% of its facilities located along the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal and the Mississippi River - Gulf Outlet, which received serious flood and wind damage. The other 75% of the Port’s facilities on the Mississippi River did not flood and received only wind damage to transit sheds and warehouses.

Steel and other break-bulk cargoes, such as natural rubber, forestry products and general commodities surged to help the Port recover and rebound well ahead of its own aggressive schedule.

“These figures are great news for the entire Port community, the New Orleans region, the State of Louisiana and the nation,” said Gary LaGrange, President and CEO of the Port of New Orleans. “Our staff, stevedores, longshoremen and customers are doing a yeoman’s job of making sure the Port of New Orleans meets the transportation needs of the American people.”

An economic impact report, completed in August of 2005 by Martin Associates, determined that in 2004 more than 380,000 total jobs in the United States were related to the annual cargo activity at the Port of New Orleans. These jobholders received $16.9 billion of personal income. The study also found, marine cargo activity at the Port supported $37 billion of economic output to the nation and generated $2.8 billion in federal tax revenue. Statewide, the Port is responsible for 107,000 jobs, $2 billion in earnings, $13 billion in spending and $231 million in taxes.

During the first five months of 2006, the Port of New Orleans moved more than 4.1 million short tons of cargo through its docks. The figure is up 4.1 percent compared to the same-period’s average over the last four years of 3.94 million short tons. In a year-ago comparison, the Port’s board-owned tonnage for the period ’ which includes all docks owned and leased by the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans ’ was up 10,744 short tons or nearly one half of a percent.

Another encouraging sign for the Port and the New Orleans tourism industry is the upcoming return of the cruise industry. The Port will welcome three of four home-ported cruise ships back to the Crescent City this fall, followed by the fourth in the summer of 2007.

“The cruise industry is vital to a healthy tourism industry and Port,” LaGrange said. “New Orleans was the fastest growing cruise port in the nation prior to Hurricane Katrina, because passengers would stay a day before or after their cruise to enjoy our rich culture, Creole cuisine and musical heritage. It’s like adding an extra port of call to a cruise itinerary.”

Norwegian Cruise Lines will begin sailing the Norwegian Sun out of New Orleans on Oct. 15, followed by Carnival Cruise Lines’ Fantasy. Royal Caribbean returns its’ Grandeur of the Seas on Dec. 2 and Carnival will also start sailing the Carnival Triumph from New Orleans on Aug. 28, 2007. In addition, Princess Cruise Lines, which is affiliated with Carnival, will test the New Orleans market with three cruises out of New Orleans on its Golden Princess in December.

The Port’s new state-of-the-art Erato Street Cruise Terminal ’ a $37 million project ’ will open at the end of September. The project includes a 90,000 square-foot terminal and a 1,000-vehicle parking garage.

While many strides have been made, Port officials understand the recovery process is far from over and much work is left to be done.

“We are working diligently to ensure the Port is made whole again,” LaGrange said. “We must secure funding to mitigate the businesses along the MR-GO, which invested millions of dollars on the promise of deep-water access. Some 9,000 jobs with a $2.29 billion economic impact were located there.”

The MR-GO has an authorized project depth of 36 feet, but silted in to 21 feet followin