Big changes coming for Port of Gulfport

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Some big changes are coming to the Port of Gulfport a year and a half before the $570 million restoration of the port is complete. The port acquired a new tenant Friday when port commissioners voted to lease space to Mississippi based Gulf Coast Shipyard Group.

The company, formerly known as Trinity Yachts, is based out of Gulfport and specializes in building offshore commercial vessels, offshore and inland barges, oil spill response and patrol vessels and oil field support vessels.

The three year lease starts March 1, and calls for the company to build up to 10 liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered vessels for New Orleans Based Harvey Gulf International Marine. The projects will create a number of jobs that will help stimulate the Gulfport economy.

"We're excited about doing business with Gulf Coast Shipyard Group and welcome the new business opportunities and jobs they will bring to the Port of Gulfport," said Executive Director and CEO of the Mississippi State Port Authority Jonathan Daniels.

Gulf Coast Shipyard has a great track record with the Port and wanted to keep the jobs and economic opportunities local.

"We are pleased to work with the Port of Gulfport and grow our business in Mississippi," said President of Gulf Coast Shipyard Group John Dane III.

"We envision having 20-70 workers on the Port while completing each vessel. These will be trade jobs-painters, electricians, carpenters, mechanics-some of whom will be Gulf Coast Shipyard employees and some of whom will be employed by our subcontractors and suppliers."

Daniels has worked hard to track down potential tenants for the Port since taking the helm of the MSPA in June of 2013. He said he expects the contract with Gulf Coast Shipyard to be the first in a long line of successful lease agreements for the Port.

A main point in the lease negotiations has been the Port's switch to the Green Marine initiative. MSPA officials voted Friday to make the Port the second of only two coastal ports in the United State to switch to the new environmentally conscious program. The only other port to participate is the Port of Seattle in Washington.

"Green Marine's mission is to make the marine transportation industry greener, which ties in with our efforts to make the Port of Gulfport a more environmentally efficient port," said Daniels.

"It is important that these vessels, powered using LNG fuel, will have reduced emissions and fit in with the Port's newly approved Green Marine initiative."

The Port and Green Marine will work together to reduce environmental impact through continuous improvements and understanding of the marine industry and through building strong relationships with marine waterway stakeholders.

"We pride ourselves in the transparency and rigor of our environmental program," said Green Marine Management Corporation President Raymond Johnson.

"Port of Gulfport joining Green Marine clearly reflects a strong commitment towards the greening of their operations."

Gulf Coast Shipyard expects the first ships to arrive at the Port by mid-March 2014.

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