Busy year on tap for Port of Gulfport

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - There is work underway and much more to come at the Port of Gulfport. Construction of new facilities and the dredging of the ship channel are both scheduled for this year.

The port is about to get much busier. Heavy equipment is now preparing an 84 acre fill site for the actual construction of new facilities.

"Grading it and getting it to a position where the next contract and the largest single contract that will be let. It will be somewhere around $120 million. That will be both for vertical structures as well as all the site work on that back 84 acres," said port Executive Director, Jonathan Daniels. "That's when we're truly going to see the amount of contractors on site that we've been talking about for years, and the amount of employees that will be hired to do that work."

Daniels is constantly busy recruiting new tenants for the expanding port facilities. Expect the next big announcement the first week of May.

"This is an international oil and gas facility. We will be their North American base of operations. Out of here, they will conduct operations in North America, Central America and South America. A significant amount of employment opportunities, as well as some movement of cargo, handling of cargo on the site. It's a value added activity, some light manufacturing. But as well, we will be their marine base of operations," said Daniels.

One of the port's biggest customers, Chiquita, recently announced an upcoming merger with a company based in Ireland.

Daniels doesn't expect that change will hurt the port at all.

"Recent discussions, we've been told that this is Chiquita's most efficient operation in the United States. We certainly think that bodes very well not only for their operations, but that information also gets out to other shippers and carriers in the industry," Daniels said.

Dredging the ship channel remains on the near horizon. Funding is coming together for the much needed deepening.

"We know it's an 11 to $12 million project. So the fact the Army Corps and the federal government is putting in $4 million with the port committing $8 million, we know we can get the channel swept to 36 feet. We have not been to 36 feet for several years," said Daniels.

If all goes according to plan, the dredging project should be finished by the end of this year.

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