Are Louisiana ports feeling the impact of sanctions against Russia?

Published: Mar. 10, 2022 at 9:06 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 11, 2022 at 6:39 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Some Louisiana ports say they had been receiving Russian oil and other commodities from Russia before the U.S. banned imports of Russian oil and gas and energy this week.

The Port of South Louisiana along the Mississippi River.
The Port of South Louisiana along the Mississippi River.(Source: WVUE)

Paul Matthews is the Executive Director of the Port of South Louisiana.

“Our port was receiving 285,000 tons of oil from Russia, which has a value of about $81 million,” said Matthews. “So, on average we were getting about 285,000 tons yearly from Russia as far as oil was concerned.”

The U.S. had been importing more than a half-million barrels of Russian oil and refined products per day.

“The U.S. gets about 500,000 barrels of oilfield products from Russia a day, which is about 182.5 million barrels a year, so we won’t see any significant difference because of the lack of oil specifically coming from Russia,” said Matthews.

FOX 8 asked Matthews if all the Russian oil imports had stopped moving through the port he oversees.

“We haven’t seen that just yet. These contracts are done months and years prior to this process happening, so whenever you have a sanction, it really takes time before you see the effects of the sanction by the president to our economy,” said Matthews.

Further downstream on the Mississippi River sits the Port of New Orleans. Jessica Ragusa is Communications Manager for the Port of New Orleans. She said that the port does not receive oil or refined products from Russia but does get some other commodities.

“So, we have aluminum, iron, and steel mostly is what we’re seeing from Russia and these are all breakbulk commodities for us,” said Ragusa. “And those represent about 3% total for our entire calendar year of 2021″

The Port of South Louisiana also was getting more than Russian oil.

“We received some fertilizer, 83,000 tons of fertilizer, and 224,000 tons of steel products through Russia to the Port of South Louisiana,” said Matthews.

He said the port also moves 100-plus tons of grains each year. Russia is a major exporter of some grains.

“Over the last week or so now we’re starting to see there is a higher demand of grain coming from the United States to the rest of the world. Sixty percent of the nation’s grain is exported down the lower Mississippi River, and we recognize that Ukraine and Russia are two of the top major producers of corn and wheat,” said Matthews.

Russia’s invasion and ongoing assault on Ukraine have fuel costs soaring in the U.S. Both ports are cognizant of the impact that could have on certain sectors and activities.

“Russia is not a top trading partner with the Port of New Orleans, so what we’re looking at right now aside from high energy prices which translates to record high marine fuel costs for us the war has had little impact on us at this time,” said Ragusa.

Ports rely on truckers, too.

“From a transportation standpoint, anytime you have an increase in fuel prices it has an impact to transportation trade and logistics and what we’ll see long-term is probably higher prices. A lot of this cost really gets trickled down to the customer,” said Matthews.

Matthews says trade route changes are expected due to the ongoing conflict.

“We anticipate significant changes to trade routes which actually gives an opportunity for America’s farmers to increase their production and then have that grain come down the lower Mississippi and increase production within the Port of South Louisiana,” he said.

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