Port Improvement "Ramps Up" Cargo Business

The latest improvement project at the State Port of Gulfport is a three million dollar loading ramp with a funny sounding name.

It's called a "ro-ro" ramp. That strange nickname is simply a shortened version of "roll-on, roll-off". It will allow one of the port's best customers to handle even more container cargo.

Outbound cargo rolls aboard a Crowley ship at the State Port at Gulfport Tuesday afternoon. A new three million dollar concrete ramp will soon make that loading process more efficient.

"It was an element from our terminal that's been missing. Our customer, Crowley, is one of the leaders in the operation of roll-on, roll-off type ships. This will facilitate their ability to handle rolling stock," said port director Don Allee.

The new ramp will allow ships a more stabilized berth. The current loading position is more vulnerable to wind and wave action. The "ro-ro" ramp will allow the ship to power down quickly, meaning faster and more efficient loading and unloading. Faster turnaround time will mean more ships going to and from Central America.

John Hourihan is a vice president with Crowley Shipping.

"We've more than doubled our volumes here since we began six years ago, and we're looking forward now, especially with the passage of CAFTA, for that to represent more trade between the U.S. and Central America," he explained.

Along with adding the new cargo ramp, the ongoing port expansion project continues. Turning 60 acres of water into useable land will better position the port for increased shipping activity.

"Once again, it' a timing issue. As we're seeing eight to ten percent growth among our carriers, particularly Crowley, we think the added real estate is going to help us tremendously," said Allee.