The Port of New Orleans hopes to open a new cruise ship terminal near the Poland Avenue Wharf in late 2017, officials said after the Dock Board voted Thursday to seek permission to sell up to $45 million in bonds to finance the project.
The Dock Board will ask the State Bond Commission to authorize the bond sale to pay for the new facility and a potential parking garage at Thalia Street.
Plans for the new terminal have been in the works for years, particularly as interest in river cruising has gained ground. The port already operates cruise ship terminals at Erato and Julia streets, about 3 miles upriver from the Poland Avenue site.
The project would add capacity for one additional cruise ship berth.
In 2014, the port handled about 1 million cruise passengers for the first time.
The port has about $21.5 million on hand in capital outlay money and funding from the state’s Port Priority Program and has set aside another $9 million, said Gary LaGrange, president and CEO of the Port of New Orleans.
Port officials probably will ask the Bond Commission to authorize the bond sale before the end of the year, LaGrange said. After that, the board will begin firming up a construction schedule.
Adding the new terminal and parking spaces will allow the facility to prepare for the “expected and projected proliferation of new cruise ships coming in and out of the port,” LaGrange said.
He said the port wouldn’t need to rely on the bond proceeds for about a year.
Work on the new terminal is expected to be finished in October 2017. “That’s pretty much of a fast track,” LaGrange said.
Plans for the parking garage call for two levels and up to 600 spaces for cruise ship customers and port workers, he said. It takes about 500 spaces to accommodate a modern cruise ship, he said.
According to a resolution approved Thursday, the bonds would be repaid at an interest rate of no more than 7 percent per year and over a period of no more than 35 years.