PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Port director Mark McAndrews is sailing in uncharted waters as the newly elected chairman of the American Association of Port Authorities.
The agency oversees and promotes more than 130 ports across the western hemisphere, ranging from Canada to Latin America.
"I'm the first port director from Mississippi to serve in the 104 years of the association as its chairman," said McAndrews. "I think that's a really positive reflection not only on our port, but on the Mississippi maritime industry as a whole."
McAndrews says business could coming up the channel in the future.
"It's an opportunity to broaden our brand within the hemisphere, and to expand some business opportunities with our industry partners."
One opportunity is already here, according to McAndrews.
"We're about to start construction of the wood pellet export facility, which is going to take Mississippi manufactured wood pellets and ship them to markets in Europe to displace coal."
The Port of Pascagoula may be the state's best kept secret; flying under the radar screen. Crude oil, refined products, forest products, and chemicals make up what's called "tonnage".
"The total tonnage for the last year that was available, I think 2014, was 32 million tons," noted McAndrews. "Which places us historically among the top 25 ports in the nation in terms of tonnage."
The success of the port is an example of maritime teamwork in full throttle.
"The people that I work with, the staff here, it's the best in the Gulf of Mexico, bar none," added McAndrews.
McAndrews has served as director of the Port of Pascagoula since 2001. He estimates there are about 19,000 direct and in-direct jobs on the coast because of the port operations.