Ports of Alabama and Mississippi are pursuing enhanced intermodal connections and deeper channels to ease efficient movement of fast-growing cargo volumes.

More than $1 billion in projects are moving forward in Alabama, while both of Mississippi’s deepwater ports are looking to new strategic master plans to steer decisions aiming to bring in new business.

Proceeding from east to west, here’s a summary of what’s going on at the three major seaports of this two-state mid-Gulf region:

Port of Mobile
The Port of Mobile’s intermodal container transfer facility can efficiently effectuate cargo deliveries from ships to Chicago in three days.

Alabama State Port Authority

With the endeavor to bring the Port of Mobile’s lower harbor depth to 50 feet from 45 feet advancing toward anticipated mid-2025 completion, the Alabama State Port Authority is moving ahead with more than $1 billion in capital projects statewide.

The harbor undertaking aims to deliver the deepest container terminal berthing along the Gulf of Mexico, according to port officials, who assert that the Mobile facility has been the fastest-growing U.S. container terminal over the past five years. Present expansion efforts are boosting the terminal’s annual throughput capacity to 1 million 20-foot-equivalent container units, with full build-out to make available 2.5 million TEUs of yearly capability.

Building upon the Port of Mobile’s direct connectivity with five Class I railroads, development of Alabama’s third intermodal container transfer facility is proceeding in partnership with CSX Transportation in Decatur, to augment ICTFs in operation in Mobile and Montgomery. Other planned Alabama State Port Authority investments include construction of an interterminal connector bridge to create on-dock rail access at the Mobile container terminal, development of a logistics park, and modernization of general cargo piers.

Port of Pascagoula
Lumber remains a leading commodity at the Port of Pascagoula, where development of a new master plan is under way.

Port of Pascagoula

Along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, just west of the Alabama state line, the Jackson County Port Authority’s Port of Pascagoula is focused on advancing a bright future under Bo Ethridge, who in mid-2023 came aboard as port director, succeeding Mark McAndrews. Ethridge’s extensive Gulf region experience includes stints as business development director at the Port of New Orleans and port director of Mississippi’s Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission, facilities of which include Port Bienville Industrial Park and NASA’s Stennis Space Center.

Ethridge is spearheading a port rebranding process and restructure of rates, while a consulting team from Hatch Ltd. is getting started on development of a new master plan for guiding future growth of Mississippi’s largest port.

Leading commodities at the Port of Pascagoula include lumber, wood pellets and renewable fuels. Enviva Holdings LP’s wood pellet export terminal is in its third year of operation in Bayou Casotte Harbor, while Oleo-X has acquired the former Chemours First Chemical plant, shuttered in 2020, and launched a renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel feedstock merchant pretreatment facility, served by CSX rail.

Port of Gulfport
The Mississippi State Port Authority’s Port of Gulfport has finally completed restoration after devastation wrought in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina.

Mississippi State Port Authority

About 45 miles west of Pascagoula, the Mississippi State Port Authority’s Port of Gulfport has finally officially been completely restored following destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A new strategic master plan has the port focusing on growth and attraction of new business at the fully renovated port, with a vision of being the preferred Gulf of Mexico gateway to the U.S. Midwest.

The Port of Gulfport is engaged with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a feasibility study for channel deepening and widening, while Ports America is investing $43 million in Terminal Four development, with new equipment to include a fourth gantry.

Intermodal-oriented rail improvements have been made at the East Pier, with a memorandum of understanding signed with Canadian National Railway for establishing nonstop express service from Gulfport to Chicago. Also, a long-term lease agreement has been inked with CORE X Partners for a cold storage facility in Gulfport. On the blue economy front, underwater exploration leader Ocean Aero Inc.’s headquarters and the Roger F. Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise have opened at the port.