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The Calcasieu Ship Channel is the Economic Heart of SWLA

Posted by: Eric Cormier on Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Chamber SWLA visited members of Louisiana’s Congressional delegation recently.

     Our team discussed topics important to the region during hurricane recovery.

     Among them was the need for lawmakers to consider maintenance of the Calcasieu Ship Channel.

     Telling the story about the waterway is easy, especially since it is a centerpiece of SWLA economic assets.     

     The Calcasieu Ship Channel drives $39 billion of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and two-thirds of the Gross Domestic Product of Calcasieu and Cameron parishes.

     Those figures may come as a surprise, but they underscore in a big way the enormously important economic impact of the Port of Lake Charles on our economy — and the ongoing need for federal support in maintaining the Calcasieu Ship Channel.

     The impressive statistics are among the findings in a study commissioned by Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District.

     The study also states that the port district and Ship Channel are substantial sources of jobs and tax revenue — and that economic power will only increase in the time ahead, with $46 million in planned projects over the next five years.

     The study, “The Economic Impacts of the Calcasieu Ship Channel,” was conducted by Martin Associates. It estimated the national, state and local economic impact of the port district and Ship Channel.

     The findings are impressive:

  • Cargo moving through terminals along the Ship Channel in 2020 supported 158,485 jobs nationwide.

  • The Ship Channel is a spark plug for 108,773 jobs in Louisiana and 42,075 in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes. The Calcasieu-Cameron figure represents 45 percent of the area’s non-farm jobs.

  • There were 13,279 direct jobs generated in the Calcasieu-Cameron area. 

  • Marine cargo activity along the Ship Channel supported $39 billion of total economic value to the U.S. economy. Of that, $29.9 billion of it was in Louisiana, representing 13 percent of the state’s Gross Domestic Product. About $12 billion of that value was in Calcasieu and Cameron parishes—67 percent of the region’s GDP.

     The study also measured the environmental and infrastructure benefits provided by the use of the Ship Channel. The Ship Channel “provides about $1.1 billion in benefits to the U.S. economy by avoiding the environmental emissions, safety, and external trucking infrastructure degradation costs that would result if the domestic cargo now shipped and received along the Calcasieu Ship Channel could no longer use the Ship Channel and would have to be delivered by truck,” the study noted.

     Over the next five years, there are $46 billion of planned projects that will use the Ship Channel — adding 90.8 million tons of cargo per year to the current cargo handled.

 The port district’ City Docks, bulk terminals and land leases, including two casinos, are the centerpieces of its economic impact.

     The Ship Channel is home to the Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District’s public marine terminals and privately-owned marine terminals. The private industries along the Ship Channel include petroleum refineries and chemical manufacturing facilities. With the opening of the Cameron LNG facility, liquefied natural gas became a key export commodity.  

     The port district is a main engine of the Southwest Louisiana economy — and a key cargo mover for the nation and world. The Ship Channel is a crucial lane of commerce and a superhighway for the area economy — and that’s why it’s essential to secure ongoing federal support for its maintenance.


Eric Cormier is Vice President of Policy and Strategic Development at the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance/Chamber SWLA. He can be contacted at 337-433-3632 or


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