Throughout the central Gulf region, ports and their private-sector partners are advancing major infrastructure projects serving oil and gas interests and more.
Even though fossil energy industries have seen better days, commercial activity remains strong at mid-Gulf ports, which are readying to efficiently handle still greater volumes in the future.
Starting in Alabama and proceeding westward across Mississippi and Louisiana, here’s the latest at major ports of the central Gulf region:
Alabama State Port Authority
The Alabama State Port Authority has just completed the $50 million first phase of an intermodal container transfer facility, along with a new rail bridge and additional yard improvements, providing container shippers ready railway links to Jackson, Miss.; Memphis; Decatur, Ill.; Chicago and destinations in Canada, with Canadian National Railway the first to actively market the ICTF.
The Port of Mobile container terminal served by the ICTF, operated by APM Terminals Mobile, is looking to complete by early 2017 a $47 million second-phase expansion to include two super-post-Panamax cranes plus 20 additional acres of improved yard area.
Not waiting until then are calls from a newly established 2M Alliance all-water service from Asia, combining Maersk Line’s TP18 and Mediterranean Shipping Co.’s Lone Star Express. Calls in China are at Qingdao, Ningbo, Shanghai, Xiamen and Yantian, with stops at Busan in South Korea, the Panamanian port of Cristóbal and Houston before Mobile and on to Miami. Joining CMA CGM’s PEX3 service, the latest addition is the second all-water Asia-U.S. Gulf service to call Mobile.
Port of Pascagoula
On the Mississippi coast, about 40 miles southwest of Mobile, the Jackson County Port Authority’s Port of Pascagoula has razed a fire-ravaged warehouse at Terminal A, freeing up 80,000 square feet for open storage along a rehabilitated dock area at the port’s Pascagoula River Harbor, where deepening to 42 feet from 38 feet is scheduled to begin later this year. A separate endeavor for widening of the Bayou Casotte Channel to 450 feet from 350 feet is under feasibility study, with federal assumption of channel maintenance expected in late 2016. The port has recently been receiving multiple shipments of coated pipe from Greece, totaling 30,000 tons, and has added a monthly service exporting lumber, plywood, poles and other forest products to the Dominican Republic.
Meanwhile, Pascagoula’s longtime port director, Mark McAndrews, has been elected to be sworn in in October to begin a one-year term as board chairman of the hemispheric American Association of Port Authorities.
Mississippi State Port Authority
At the Mississippi State Port Authority’s Port of Gulfport, the federally backed $570 million restoration project that has followed 2005 Hurricane Katrina annihilation has moved firmly into vertical construction, with an eye toward late 2017 completion. The project encompasses wharves, terminals, container storage, three new gantry cranes and an intermodal container transfer facility.
In addition, DuPont spinoff Chemours Co. has joined the port in an $85 million project to build a new bulk-handling facility for handling ilmenite ore and related commodities, while the Port of Gulfport has recently gained U.S. Maritime Administration designation as a strategic seaport for handling military cargos.
Also, the port is awaiting a final U.S. Army Corps of Engineers environmental impact study in hopes it brings approval of a 160-acre expansion to the south of the existing West Pier. The port currently covers 300 waterfront acres plus a 116-acre inland port where Edison Chouest Offshore unit TopShip LLC is establishing a 1,000-job shipbuilding facility.
Louisiana International Deep Water Gulf Transfer Terminal
An innovative cargo transfer facility appears to be moving toward development by global private interests near the mouth of the Mississippi River on a 2,000-acre site, with depths of as many as 108 feet, owned by the State of Louisiana.
Officials of the Louisiana International Deep Water Gulf Transfer Terminal Authority say construction could be under way within 12 months of LIGTT facilities for handling dry bulk cargo, to be followed by facilities for transfer of liquid bulk and, ultimately, movement of containers from megavessels onto smaller ships and barges.
The project, which gained go-ahead from the Louisiana State Legislature a half-dozen years ago, embodies a hub-and-spoke transshipment concept and seeks to enhance Louisiana’s position as a North American cargo gateway.