Morgan City Port applies for foreign trade zone

MORGAN CITY, La. — A $3,200 application fee for the Port of Morgan City to apply to become a foreign trade zone was approved by the Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District commission at the district’s monthly meeting Monday.

A foreign trade zone is an area outside of the U.S. Customs’ jurisdiction, where certain merchandise would be able to be held at the port, changed into a different product and then exported to another country with no tariff paid on it, said Mike Knobloch, special projects coordinator for the Port of Morgan City, at the March meeting.

“It provides a competitive edge for our businesses to compete against other companies around the world,” Knobloch said at the March meeting.

The port’s application fee will be paid to the Foreign Trade Zone Board in Washington, D.C. The board oversees foreign trade zones in the country.

Businesses applying for foreign trade zone status would pay an annual fee set by the port, he said.

The service area of the foreign trade zone will cover at least St. Mary Parish, Knobloch said. There will be sub-zones within the trade zone, he said. A specific area within the trade zone, which does not have to be the Port of Morgan City, must be fenced to prevent people from just walking in and taking products out, he said.

The review process for the port’s application will take a couple of months, Knobloch said. The Foreign Trade Zone Board will then publish a notice in the Federal Register. After that, the application will have a public comment period and then the Foreign Trade Zone Board will have the option to approve the application.

The entire process will probably take about four months, Knobloch said.

The commission also discussed the port’s ranking by the Waterborne Commerce division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of 119 out of 350 ports in the country in total tonnage coming through the port and the implications that ranking higher on that list would have for the port.

The port ranked 98th in 2009, but has not been ranked in the top 100 since then, said Cindy Cutrera, manager of economic development for the Port of Morgan City. The problem the port has is that all the tonnage at the docks within its district is not measured so the corps does not get all the data, Cutrera said.

Tonnage refers to the weight of materials that are loaded and unloaded from boats across a dock within the port’s district, she said. The port’s district follows the parish line part of the way but excludes parts of Patterson and anything west of Wax Lake Outlet, she said.

Getting an accurate reading on the total tonnage that comes through the docks within the port’s district allows the Port of Morgan City to get more funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for dredging work, she said. The corps also wants to know what barges are coming through each dock, she added.

Some of the oil and gas companies that transport goods through the port’s district do not want to release how much weight they carry because the business is highly competitive, Cutrera said. With the exception of the one dock at the Port of Morgan City, which is operated by Inmobilaria Lamol LLC, the other docks within the district are privately owned and are not required to report their tonnage, she said.

Moving forward, the port is trying to work to get accurately reported tonnage from the docks to show to the Waterborne Commerce division, which will be beneficial to the businesses that use the docks as well, Cutrera said.

The commission also announced the port will host a Hurricane Preparedness Forum at the Morgan City Municipal Auditorium at 10:30 a.m. May 13. People from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service asked the port to host the forum, said Jerry Hoffpauir, port executive director. “It’s a very important meeting for predictions for this year and go over last year’s damage report,” Hoffpauir said.

Rep. Charles Boustany, R-LA, will be attending the forum.

“With adjusted numbers on national flood insurance, and things that are going on with FEMA, we’d like to definitely come down here and discuss it with St. Mary Parish officials to make sure that we’re all on the same page with officials … and industry in the area,” said Adam Hensgens, community outreach liaison for Boustany.

In other business:

—The commission approved the port to be authorized to get bids on a wide area camera surveillance system including installation at the port.

—The commission approved the port to sign a purchase agreement with All-Star Manufacturing to build a new security guard station costing $25,753 as part of the fiscal year 2009 port security grant.

—The commission approved the port to sign a purchase agreement for $3,420 from Bonnabel Construction to build a concrete slab for the security guard station out of port funds.

—The commission approved upgrading the port to a new keypad system at a cost of $3,610 and authorized electrical work.

—Work in the Atchafalaya Bay Dredging contract has been completed with the exception of cutting water interchange gaps at the Bennette Island disposal site, said Mike Lowe of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

—The intense survey effort analyzing the Atchafalaya Bar Channel to get it to the congressionally mandated 20-foot depth has been completed, said Jonathan Hird of Moffat & Nichol engineering firm. They will be meeting April 17 in New Orleans with the corps to discuss recommendations for the project, he said.

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Morgan City Daily Review
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