GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Port of Gulfport is now able to ship goods for the U.S. government, and the first shipment was being loaded Saturday.
The move - which is being called a win-win - is a big change from what was required of bases before now.
"We spend a lot of money line hauling all of our very heavy gear from NCBC Gulfport up to Virginia every time we execute this mission," said Lt. Cmdr. Josh Perry from the Seabee base.
The long haul will no longer be necessary, saving tax payers' dollars. Perry is helping lead the very first mission leaving from the port. He says the new strategic port designation by the Department of Defense makes sense.
That's the label that gives the port the ability to facilitate government missions and operations.
"This gives us absolute flexibility to bring a MSC ship here with roll on, roll off capability and just doing what we're doing right behind us now. This is has turned into a really big success story," said Perry.
It's a success that port officials started working toward more than a decade ago. Hurricane Katrina threw the plan off track, but it picked back up three years ago. Port director Jonathan Daniels says the DOD is very exclusive in what it considers a strategic port.
"There's about 10 different criteria that they look at. The connectivity with the rail line, the roadways, proximity to bases, and the Port of Gulfport can serve more military bases for a strategic port designation and operations than any other strategic port in the United States," said Daniels.
He hopes this means many more missions in the near future. And, according to Daniels, there is a good bit of responsibility that comes with the title.
"When there's a deployment, they'll give us about 48 hours notice. At that point, we need to be able to provide the equipment, we need to be able to provide the staff. We also need to be able to provide the land resources," he said.
Daniels says there are already talks of more missions embarking from the port in late 2017 and early 2018.