Freight News, Sea

Alabama’s Port of Mobile Harbor to be Deepened to 50 Feet

[ September 10, 2019   //   ]

The Alabama State Port Authority (ASPA) announced it has received federal authorization to modernize Mobile Harbor to accommodate larger vessels and improve transit efficiencies at Alabama’s only deep-water seaport – Port of Mobile.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) South Atlantic Division signed the Record of Decision for the Mobile Harbor General Reevaluation Report (GRR) and Integrated Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on Friday, in Atlanta, GA.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will next execute a Design Agreement with the State Port Authority to begin the Preconstruction, Engineering, and Design phase. Construction on the modifications could begin in late 2020.

The proposed Harbor improvement project would deepen the existing Bar, Bay and River Channels to 52 feet, 50 feet, and 50 feet, respectively.  The project also includes widening the Bay Channel by 100 feet for three nautical miles to accommodate two-way vessel traffic, expanding the current Post-Panamax sized turning basin, and incorporating a minor bend easing in the lower Bay Channel.

Shoreside, the ASPA and its partner, APM Terminals, have been expanding the terminal to meet year over year growth.  A $50 million expansion completed in late 2017, and the following year, another $50 million expansion launched.

“With completion of the Phase 3 expansion, the port and its partner, APM Terminals, will have nearly $500 million in container intermodal assets to serve our customers.  As demand dictates, we’re positioned to respond quickly to further expansion,” says James K. Lyons, director and chief executive officer for the port authority.

The Phase 3 expansion, when completed in February 2020, extends the dock to allow for simultaneous berth of two Post-Panamax sized vessels and brings annual throughput capacity to 650,000 TEUs.  The dock extension leverages operational efficiencies generated by newly constructed yard capacity, applied technology, additional outbound gates, and two Super Post-Panamax and two Post-Panamax ship to shore container cranes.

In June 2014, the State Port Authority requested the Corps initiate the necessary studies to achieve justified improvements to support the seaports rapid growth in manufacturing, mining, retail/distribution and agribusiness markets.  The resulting Mobile Harbor GRR and SEIS underwent a $7.8 million, comprehensive four-year study to evaluate the benefits and potential impacts of the project.  Throughout the study process, the Port Authority and the USACE jointly conducted public scoping meetings, general public meetings in both the Open House and Town Hall formats, numerous meetings with cooperating agencies, and extensive focus group meetings

with Seafood interests, commercial fisherman, environmental non-governmental organizations, Dauphin Island property owners and interests, and Environmental Justice communities. In May 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency released the Draft GRR/SEIS for public comment to be considered in the preparation of the Record of Decision.

During the study process, the Port Authority’s container carriers servicing Asia trade lanes added new market options and some have shifted to 7000-8500 TEU class ships.