Port of Gulfport Loses Out on Channel Deepening Project
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has scrapped a plan to deepen the main channel at the Port of Gulfport from a study on future expansion at the Mississippi state port.
The port had sought authorization to deepen the channel and, as a result, attract more container business from ocean carriers operating larger, newer-generation vessels.
According to a spokesman for the USACE, the channel deepening was removed from the study because port officials learned the state would have to pay the entire cost for the deeper channel, plus cover perpetual maintenance, because Congress did not authorize or fund the study.
The process to secure federal funding for a deeper channel takes at least 10 years, and involves environmental and economic studies. Congress must authorize and fund each step.
The Corps’ timeline called for a draft of its study to be completed in early 2014, but, the spokesman said, removal of channel deepening has slowed the process, adding the “draft should be finished in the next couple of months.”
Gulfport’s 36-foot ship channel currently serves two tenants that carry containerized cargo — Dole Fresh Fruit and Crowley.
In March, the Mississippi State Port Authority (MSPA) approved the execution of a lease with Dole, which provides the company with terminal space in Gulfport for up to 23 years, or through 2038.
Construction on the terminal is expected to be complete by the end of 2016. The Dole-Gulfport agreement calls for the MSPA to construct a transit shed which includes 21,000 square feet of climate controlled chiller space, 130,000 square feet of dry cargo storage, an administrative office, and a maintenance and repair facility.
Crowley maintains a 15-acre combination roll-on/roll-off/container terminal at Gulfport with liner service linking the port with Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, as well as licensed cargo service to Cuba. The company began operations at the port in 1999.
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