A broad range of projects are advancing at ports of Mississippi and Alabama, from providing better road and rail links to deeper channel access.
Mississippi’s Port of Gulfport is moving ahead with development of a multifaceted strategic plan, while a multidomed wood pellet export terminal is nearing completion at the Port of Pascagoula, Mississippi, and a new temperature-controlled warehouse is opening at Alabama’s Port of Mobile.
Here, on a port-by-port basis, are specifics on some of the latest goings-on at the three major seaports of the Magnolia State and Yellowhammer State:
Mississippi State Port Authority
With expansion of its West Pier Terminal having been completed in late 2018 under federally backed restoration following 2005 Hurricane Katrina destruction, the Mississippi State Port Authority’s Port of Gulfport is concentrating on sustained growth, including through a new strategic plan. The Mississippi Defense Initiative, housed at the University of Southern Mississippi, has been awarded an 18-month grant for development of the plan, which is to focus on aligning defense-related uses with bolstering of the port’s non-military business.
A $15.7 million U.S. Department of Transportation Port Infrastructure Development Program grant, awarded by the U.S. Maritime Administration in 2020, is helping advance an access project to enhance roadways leading in and out of the port entrance, while state funding announced in January includes $430,000 to be used toward drainage and rail access improvements in the port’s North Harbor area.
In the meantime, construction has begun at the port on the 62,000-square-foot Roger F. Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise, which is seen as a stimulus for the region’s “Blue Economy” through creation of a maritime technology environment for the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Port of Pascagoula
At the Jackson County Port Authority’s Port of Pascagoula, along the Mississippi Gulf Coast just west of the Alabama state line, a $90 million wood pellet export terminal is moving forward on schedule toward mid-2021 completion in Bayou Casotte Harbor. The Enviva Holdings LP facility, featuring a pair of domes with combined storage capacity of 90,000 metric tons, as well as conveyor systems and mobile ship loader installations, is to receive wood pellets from multiple Enviva plants, including one being built in Lucedale, Mississippi.
With a new Mississippi Export Railroad short line rail link and interchange yard having recently been completed with a boost from federal funding, the Port of Pascagoula is now looking to proceed with a $15 million, 0.8-mile rail project to bring full operational connectivity with CSX and Canadian National lines.
Also, at the South Terminal in the port’s Pascagoula River Harbor, multiple maintenance and rehabilitation projects have been completed, and officials are currently pursuing federal funding for major infrastructure improvements needed to develop the 50-plus-acre former Jackson County Grain Terminal property into a state-of-industry marine terminal.
Alabama State Port Authority
Following June entry into a project partnership agreement by the State of Alabama and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the $365.7 million undertaking to deepen and widen the harbor serving the Alabama State Port Authority’s Port of Mobile is proceeding toward intended completion of a 50-foot-draft federal channel by late 2024 or early 2025.
The Port of Mobile, which in early 2020 put finishing touches on a $50 million expansion of its container terminal, is now moving ahead with $45 million of improvements at its McDuffie Coal Terminal, which has been handling increasingly large bulk-carrying vessels that deliver Alabama’s high-quality, low-sulfur coking coal to Asian markets. Improvements to the terminal are to include new and upgraded equipment, as well as yard management enhancements.
Meanwhile, just outside the gates of the APM Terminals Mobile-operated container terminal, Baltimore-headquartered MTC Logistics is poised to open the port’s newest refrigerated cargo facility – a $61 million installation with extensive blast-freezing capacity. In mid-2020, Santa Paula, California-based automotive lift producer BendPak opened a 150,000-square-foot distribution center in Theodore, Alabama, 11 miles from the container terminal.