Purchase of old ship yard from port operator put on hold amid questions from state financing panel


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Plans by the Port of South Louisiana to purchase what was once a major New Orleans area shipyard for construction of military vessels have been delayed.

The port announced in January its intent to purchase the old Avondale Shipyard site from the current owner, port terminal operator T. Parker Host. However, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported Wednesday that the purchase has been put off after port officials faced questions last month from the state Bond Commission.

Members of the commission, which must approve government debt, had noted that the port had not provided detailed accounts of Host’s revenue at Avondale for previous years. Host bought the site in 2018, roughly four years after the shipyard that once employed thousands was shuttered.

The proposed purchase would require more than $400 million in public financing.

“With the full cooperation of the seller, we believe the delay is warranted to thoroughly consider points raised by the state Bond Commission and to give members time to analyze the modified agreement the port reached with Host in late August,” port CEO Paul Matthews said Tuesday in a news release announcing the delay.

State Treasury Department spokesperson Tony Ligi told the news outlet in an email that the port’s application to the Bond Commission “has been placed on inactive status until further notice.”

State Treasurer John Schroder, who also chairs the Bond Commission, as well as Jay Dardenne, the state’s Commissioner of Administration, were among members who questioned Matthews and the port’s bond advisers about the terms of a purchase.

Host bought Avondale for $60 million and said it subsequently invested $90 million in the site, primarily to remediate environmental damage from decades as a ship-building site, as well as to add a new wharf.

The company has built up a stevedoring and port operation but hasn’t been able to attract enough large, long-term tenants to fill its 254 acres (100 hectares) of industrial park space.

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