GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A visit from Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood this week gave Port of Gulfport officials an opportunity to make their case to the Obama Administration as to why they think the port needs a deeper channel.
"Whenever I have traveled the country, I've taken the opportunity to visit ports," LaHood said.
In his whirlwind tour of ports, LaHood wants to find out what they need to be more competitive globally. The answer he got from Port of Gulfport officials was a deeper channel.
"We're the shallowest major port in the US Gulf of Mexico and we just thought it was a good idea to make certain the secretary knew our desires are to go deeper than 36 feet," Port Director Don Allee said.
In recent years, the federal government has made $354 million in improvements to ports around the country, largely with the intent to grow U.S. exports.
"We have a trade imbalance. We've always struggled with that certainly in these last two decades," said Allee. "One way to correct that is to increase the amount of goods the U.S. exports. In order to do that, you're going to need your seaports because the majority of goods transported around the world go by maritime transportation."
While funding is hard to come by right now, the port director said tough economic times won't last forever. Allee said a deeper channel would make the Port of Gulfport better prepared for when the economic turnaround begins.
"Somewhere between 36 and 45 feet we're going to able to attract ships that in some cases are actually four times as large when we look at capacity," said Allee. "Four times larger than the current ships we're serving today. "
Allee said port officials also stressed to the secretary the importance of developing a national strategy for the moving good through ports, along interstates, and by freight.