Progress Report From The Port of Gulfport

Four months after Hurricane Katrina, almost all of the storm debris has been removed and more ships are coming in every day.

Port Director Don Allee says they lost 99 percent of their storage and almost all of their tenants. But still, he thinks the "sky's the limit."

"Out of all the docks you see around us today, legitimately, only two are serviceable. Only two are usable."

But Allee says several container carriers like Chiquita and Dole can still come to port with no problem.

"They're the easiest to satisfy. They just need blank pieces of land and we have an abundance of it right now."

All this new space is courtesy of Katrina. The storm wiped out almost all of the 700,000 square feet of covered warehouse space, also wiping out about 75% of their business.

"For the time being we're eliminated from handling products like Forrest Products, aluminum ingots that come in from South America, things that have to be stored out of the weather."

"I think this is a lemonade out of lemons scenario."

He says, the port has been following a 20 year master plan for progress, but Katrina changed that timeline dramatically.

"It has sped up the implementation of a strategic master plan, so I have to be optimistic."

Allee says with every week, more carriers are returning. And he's proud to say, they can handle it.

"I think the fact that we are able to handle five ships in a week, just four months after the storm, I think that's tremendous progress."

The port's director admits they took a big hit. But with federal and state money, a clear plan for growth, and this new "clean slate" before them, he says the future is limitless.