Ports Reopen After Ivan's Unwanted Visit

Freeman Hines is probably going to pick up a little overtime.

"That will be good," he said, as he waited for a crane to lower another container off a cargo ship. "We could use that."

Thanks to Hurricane Ivan, Monday turned out to be a long day for longshoremen like Hines. They had to play catch up, so delayed Port of Gulfport ships could finally unload their cargo. The port's west gate had a line of 18 wheelers waiting to hit the road with imported goods.

"To me this is a direct result of the storm," port director Don Allee said, while standing next to the long line.

On a typical Monday, two cargo ships dock at the port. But this wasn't a typical Monday. This was the first time the port opened since Ivan roared through the gulf.

"Everybody is kind of spread out kind of thin," Hines said, referring to his team of longshoremen. "We've gotta find some manpower to get it done."

Early Monday morning, Hines' group unloaded three ships docked along the west pier. A fourth showed up at noon. And at least one other was on its way to Gulfport.

According to Allee, the non-stop ship rush "requires us to be excellent traffic managers. And that's what we're doing today."

The Port of Gulfport could actually benefit from Ivan's fury. As you may have seen, Ivan destroyed a section of I-10 near Pensacola. That's a major route for trucks that haul cargo from Miami and other Florida ports. So there's a chance Florida ships could temporarily move their operations to Gulfport.

"That's a possibility," said Allee. "We've talked to some ships that have been compromised by the storm. But our first mission is to serve our regular customers. And then, as we can assist these vessels, we will."

The Port of Gulfport did have minor silting problems in its ship channel. And during Ivan, it lost several aids to navigation. But those problems won't prevent ships from entering or leaving this port.