Port Plans discussed

Published 4:34 pm Thursday, July 13, 2006

Gov. Haley Barbour and officials from the State Port Authority at Gulfport have discussed establishing a new 20-year plan for the port, which was almost completely wiped away by Hurricane Katrina.

“Now is the time to make the port at Gulfport a larger, more economically vibrant maritime-cargo facility,” Barbour said after Wednesday’s meeting.

Barbour met with Port Executive Director Don Allee, Port Authority President Dalton McGuire, and four of the five authority commissioners.

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Representatives of JWD Engineering, the port’s engineering consulting firm, were also on hand.

JWD has a 23-week contract to update the 20-year master plan originally completed in 2003.

Allee said a ballpark figure to get the port back into its master plan evolution would be $770 million.

The port’s three containerized-shipping tenants are back to near pre-Katrina levels of shipping, roughly 250 ships unloaded and loaded over the next 12 months.

The port’s capability to serve the poultry and forest-products market, which require refrigeration and covered storage, was lost in the wind and storm surge of the Aug. 29 storm.

That was about 40 percent to 45 percent of its maritime revenue.

The port also hasn’t been generating non-maritime revenue from its casino leases, which were about 50 to 55 percent of its pre-storm total revenue of $21 million.

“We were bringing him (Barbour) up to speed on the things that we were doing and some of the things we hadn’t gotten to address with him that needs to be done and the things he can help us with,” McGuire said.

Allee said the governor would be helpful in getting funding for the port.

Barbour said he thought even before the storm the port could be a bigger economic force for South Mississippi and the state.