Local port deal boosts area jobs

St. Charles and Africa seal partnership
A trade agreement signed by Port of South La with the Port of Dakar will boost the local economy, eventually adding jobs and attracting new businesses. After a ten day visit in which the African officials toured local industry and culture, a trade cooperation was finalized at the World Trade Center in New Orleans. The Port of South La’s Executive Director Joel Chaisson has been cultivating the relationship with the Port of Dakar, Senegal for almost a year, after visiting the West African nation last November.

Senegalese officials spent a week touring the River Parishes, visiting Globalplex Intermodal Terminal. Along with St. Charles Parish President Albert Laque, St. Charles Parish Economic Development Department Director Corey Faucheux and Rep. Gary Smith, the contingency from Africa had lunch in St. Charles Parish with local representatives from Valero.

The Port of Dakar is an emerging market in hydro-carbons and as hub for oil and gas exploration on the west coast of the continent. The Port of South La and African officials are hoping to expand business, while assisting the Port of Dakar with growth. Since similar goods are moved through the Port of South La, the trade pact will benefit both ports.

The major problem currently at the African port is lack of infrastructure, but, through the agreement, Port of South La officials hope grow the capacity of the African port, thereby increasing trade back in Louisiana.

The Port of South La, with its established trade routes to Southern Africa via Gulf Africa Lines (GAL), a major shipping line, was already looking to expand its base.

Chaisson believes that the agreement has “great potential for future trade alliances in Africa. GAL’s Panamax, (ships that can fit through the locks of Panama Canal), service Durban and Johannesburg in South Africa should provide the Port of South Louisiana with an economic advantage to expand trade routes into Senegal and potentially other nations in the Northwest Africa region.”

As this part of Africa is rich in oil, the long term arrangement with the Port of South La should benefit the region, as oil production and oil byproducts are a staple along the river. As Nigeria has already established itself as major exporter of petroleum in West Africa, the Port of Dakar hopes to increase its public standing a major port of trade in a new global economy.

The trade pact stems from the Southern US Initiative (SSI), a plan encouraging the development of Senegal, which was created by the US Global Business Consultants. “They are trying to develop their cruise industry, and what they need from us is security measures,” Patrick Dufresne, Port of South La’s Information Director. Along with this, Senegal is looking to build stronger trade, entice investments in the country’s infrastructure and increase cultural relations with the US.

“They have products there that the companies here in our ports use: fertilizers, ores, and hydro-carbons. The hydro-carbons are used at all of the chemical refineries along the Mississippi River, and they have a lot of oil reserves, said Dufrense.

Due to a shared French Heritage, as both were French colonies at one time, Louisiana chose to work with Senegal in 1995, where French is the official language, as the cultural exchange is as important as economic trading.

A 2003 visit to Senegal by President Bush helped setup the partnership, as he encouraged American businesses to look to Africa as a place for future investment, along with joining with the African nation to exchange cultural traditions. In doing so, Dufrense hopes that, along with increasing business in Louisiana and the US, this type of trade pact will increase economic conditions in impoverished Africa, giving the mission humanitarian as well monetary objectives.


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