The City of New Orleans grew up around this ideal bend of the Mississippi River where early trade and transportation thrived 300 years ago. As commerce along the riverfront grew, the Port and the region grew along with it. Here's timeline of how the Port of New Orleans became the economic engine and vital link in the global supply chain.



  • Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, founds New Orleans along the Mississippi River. This trade-friendly location later becomes the capital of the French colony of Louisiana and shapes the future of the United States as a headquarters for commercial land development.


  • France gives Louisiana to Spain.

1795 - 1798

  • Spain signs a three-year treaty granting Americans the right to freely navigate the Mississippi River and the right to deposit goods in the Port of New Orleans. After the treaty expires, Spain refuses to allow American vessels to enter the Port of New Orleans.


  • Americans in the Ohio Basin claim they can’t survive without the use of the Mississippi River. President Thomas Jefferson suggests purchasing New Orleans from Spain, which had secretly given Louisiana back to France.


  • The U.S. buys the entire colony of Louisiana from France for $15 million. The Louisiana Purchase doubles the U.S. in size, due entirely to the need for the Port of New Orleans.


  • One year after the American Civil War began, Union forces capture New Orleans and close the Port to the Confederate Army, cutting off a main source of supplies and money.

1863 - 1879

  • Under Reconstruction, harbor and river maintenance are neglected and siltation at the mouth of the river hinders trade. A jetty system designed by James Eads clears the silt-blocked channel of the Mississippi River.
1896 Original Dock Board


  • The Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans is created by the Louisiana Legislature to administer public wharves and regulate trade and traffic. A. Robert Bleakley becomes the first president.


  • Port NOLA establishes the Harbor Police Department and grants it full policing powers.
1923 Board On Ship


  • The Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, created by the Port to link the Mississippi River with Lake Pontchartrain, opens.


  • The Public Grain Elevator begins operation, and 18 new wharves have been built since 1903.


  • New Orleans becomes the second Foreign-Trade Zone location in the U.S.


  • New Uptown wharves are dedicated and commissioned.


  • The Port opens a trade exhibition center called The Rivergate, which helps bring conventions to New Orleans and serves as a precursor to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.


  • The Port dedicates its first terminal designed specifically for handling containers, France Road Terminal, Berth #1.


  • The Moonwalk, an area formerly used as wharves, is opened as a public space along the French Quarter riverfront.


  • The 1984 Louisiana World Exhibition is held in New Orleans. The World’s Fair is located along the riverfront and leads to the development of the Riverwalk Marketplace and the Port’s first cruise terminal at Erato Street Wharf.


  • The Aquarium of the Americas and Woldenberg Park are opened on the former site of Bienville Street Wharf and other French Quarter-area wharves.


  • The Louisiana World Exhibition’s Canadian Plaza is converted into the Julia Street Cruise Terminal.
1993 Silocaf, Bulk Coffee Handling Plant


  • Silocaf, then the world’s largest bulk coffee handling plant, opens at the site of the former Public Grain Elevator.
1996 Admin Building


  • The Port moves into its new administration building at 1350 Port of New Orleans Place.


  • The Port purchases Perry Street Wharf in Gretna, including 57 acres of land.
2003 Clarence Henry Truckway


  • The Port of New Orleans installs its first two gantry cranes on the riverfront, and the Clarence Henry Truckway is opened, expediting truck movement and reducing the impact of traffic on Port neighbors.


  • Port NOLA becomes a London Metals Exchange port and is now consistently in the top 3 nationwide.


  • The Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal Complex opens, moving the Port’s primary container facilities to the Mississippi River so that vessels with drafts up to 45 feet can be accommodated. The new terminal includes two additional gantry cranes.
2005 Dock Image


  • Port NOLA reopened 12 days after Hurricane Katrina despite experiencing over $300 million in damage.
2006 Cruise Terminals


  • The Erato Street Cruise Terminal and Parking Garage open.


  • The Port NOLA 2020 Master Plan is developed to ensure systematic coordination of Hurricane Katrina recovery projects.


  • The Port installs two new container gantry cranes, bringing the total available at the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal to six. The Julia Street Cruise terminal is opened after a redesign that combines two small terminals into one large terminal.
2013 Henry Clay Avenue Refrigerated Terminal storage facility is commissioned.


  • Henry Clay Avenue Refrigerated Terminal storage facility is commissioned.


  • The City of New Orleans opens Crescent Park on former Port NOLA wharves.


  • Port NOLA joins Green Marine, a voluntary North American environmental certification program for the maritime, port and terminal industry.
Mississippi River Intermodal Terminal at Milan Street


  • The 12-acre Mississippi River Intermodal Terminal at Milan Street is complete and provides on-dock rail transfer for the six Class I railroads that serve the Port.
New Orleans Public Belt Railroad


  • The Port acquires the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad from the City of New Orleans, a strategic alignment that joins state-of-the-art maritime operations with a modern urban railroad.