Port of Mobile
James K. Lyons, Director, CEO, Alabama State Port Authority
FTZ No. 82 • 4,000 total acres • 41 berths • 2.4 million sq. ft. warehouse space • 45-ft. channel • ICTF (2015)
Rail: BNSF-AGR, CN, CSX, NS, KCS;
Highways: I-10, I-65, U.S. 43, U.S. 45,
U.S. 90, U.S. 98
Top export destinations: Brazil, China, Mexico
Top export commodities: Coal, Forest Products, Iron/Steel
Jimmy Lyons: Our biggest advantage as a port is our inland connections, which at the end of the day, that’s where a lot of our cost comes from. What’s charged to the port is only a very small percentage of the overall cost of moving goods in the international markets, but cost is by far one of the largest components. All ports can claim good interstate connections, or a lot can, and we have good interstate connections. We have east/west interstate 10 and directly to the north of us interstate 65 connecting to interstate 85, so good inland highway connections in three directions. We are fairly unique. There’s only one port that has any more Class I railroads than we have, and that’s New Orleans. We have five and they have six. Most ports have one or two but we have a little of a leg up on New Orleans in that all five of our railroads converge at one point immediately behind the main port, so that presents us with a significant advantage as far as rail traffic and the efficiency that we can offer to Class I railroads, which eventually gets reflected into freight cost. We have an inland river system that is really more regionally focused than, say, the Mississippi River, but again it just adds one more little feather to our cap as far as inland connections. We have over the years tried to match our facility development with the inland trade and build them the kind of facilities that make us a leader in areas where we are a leader, which is in steel products and forest products, which are our leading commodities besides coal. Coal, of course, is a huge part of our business. We have one of the largest coal terminals in the United States. We’ll never be a mega container port and understand that, but we have built a very efficient container facility that has been growing at double digits since we opened it in 2008, so we’re a relatively new container gateway but the growth that we have experienced over say five or so years that we’ve been in operation is indicative of the value of that terminal and what it can ship. Most of our growth has been organic without added new steamship lines, other than at the beginning, so the lines that have been calling here have been increasing every year, so more and more people discover that Mobile can be a viable gateway for their traffic.
Global Trade: Are you all set for Post-Panamax ships and Super-Post Panamax ships?
Jimmy Lyons: We are. The last component that we had for Post-Panamax ships was the ability to turn them around. We, along with the Corps of Engineers, built a turning basin so that we can turn the larger ships around. The turning basin is right directly across from the container terminal, so it’s very efficient. They can come up, make the turn and be docked in less than 30 minutes, so that’s very efficient. The cranes, when the terminal was built, it was built for Post-Panamax ships. We have 45-foot draft which should accommodate the Post-Panamax ships that we expect to be coming into the U.S. Gulf. So as far as we’re concerned, we’re ready. We are building an intermodal facility that will expand our inland reach farther and actually further improve our already good connections.
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