Port Facility Hopes to Capitalize on Eastern Gulf Activity

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Venice Port Complex.

The offshore oil and gas industry is no stranger to the southernmost point of Louisiana. For more than a half-century, offshore personnel drove to the community of Venice to board offshore supply vessels or helicopters to make the trip to their jobs atop drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, officials hope to redefine the area’s role in the offshore industry and capitalize on a planned boon in oil and gas drilling and production in the eastern Gulf. The effort consists of a re-branding of the facility and a healthy influx of investment capital for improved infrastructure. Welcome to the Venice Port Complex, much better sounding then the Louisiana Fruit Company site, its previous name relating to the facility’s development and proprietary company. “Most people using our facilities didn’t know our name,” said George Pivach II, the attorney for the newly named facility. “’Venice,’ ‘The Jump,’ or ‘End of the Road’ are much more recognized by those in the industry.” The new name was chosen to better reflect the activity and significance of the facility, Pivach said. The complex already has more than 50 tenants. The likes of Halliburton, Chevron and Newpark Resources already have a significant presence in Venice. Now, developers are hoping to bill Venice as the site of choice for offshore service companies working new prospects in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Up to $10 million in upgrades and refurbishments, combined with an effort already underway to deepen Baptiste Collette Bayou to 27 feet from its current 16 feet, are projects developers hope will lure the service industry to Venice in full force. “We would provide the shortest deepwater access to present and future eastern Gulf of Mexico fields,” Pivach said. “We want to revitalize Venice and invite people to take a look at us as an eastern Gulf route. We think we are poised to be that link.” The complex has more than 1,500 acres of developed and undeveloped properties and is currently redeveloping a 38-acre deep-water site with more with 3,500 ft. of dock space. Officials hope to bill the site, located on Tiger Pass, as a “one-stop-shop” for supply vessels. “With deep-water access, we believe this would be a great site for a developer to come in and build a one-stop shop for the service industry,” Pivach said, referencing a similar scope as the C-Port concept in Port Fourchon, which allows vessels to refuel, restock and load cargo in a quick-turnaround setting. And industry observers contend another deep-water port to service the new generation of offshore vessels is critical, especially along the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast. “I’m sure Venice would like to duplicate what Port Fourchon has done right,” said Ken Wells, president of the Offshore Marine Service Association. “After the hurricanes (of 2005), we found we cannot rely on just one service port. Hurricane Katrina wiped out Venice and Gulfport and then Hurricane Rita devastated the western side. There was no real safe harbor. For a while, there wasn’t a port for several hundred miles where you could put an OSV. It really emphasized the need of having more than one facility capable of handling offshore service vessels.” Wells said the investment in the Plaquemines Parish port is essential to retaining new offshore service industry activity within Louisiana, as well. “The only way Plaquemines comes back is if Venice comes back, there’s no question about it,” Wells said. “And the planned improvements would be able to fulfill the needs of the modern OSVs, which are so much bigger.” Officials contend the site is essential for economic development plans for south Louisiana, as well. “If we are not the spot for the eastern Gulf, then that business goes to Mobile or Pascagoula,” said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, who has worked on the project for about eight years. “The governor, area parishes and federal officials all support this. It’s great timing and is a key project not only for Plaquemines Parish, but for the coastal corridor.” The Venice site shaves between 30 and 45 miles from a trip to the nearest eastern Gulf site – the Desoto field, which was divvied up in the Minerals Management Service’s Lease Sale 181. “It only makes sense to burn as little fuel as possible,” Nungesser said. “That saves millions of dollars in getting to and from these leases.” An advantage south Louisiana also has includes an existing oil and gas business culture, Wells said. “Areas like Mobile have a lot of infrastructure there already, but what it doesn’t have is the infrastructure of businesses that support the offshore service industry,” Wells said.

Source: MarineNews October 2007

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