Port Of Gulfport Wants To Build Back Better

The Port of Gulfport will unveil its new master plan to the general public on Monday. Director Don Allee says the port began developing a $250 million master plan back in 2003. After Katrina, it was time to re-visit those plans.

For more than 40 years, Dole has been part of the Port of Gulfport. Over the next few years the port's master plan will allow the company to move its operation from a 23-acre site to a 35-acre site.

"The expansion gives us a more efficient facility, a larger facility," said Dole executive Stuart Jablon. "The increased size of the port will bring in more customers, which will attract more labor. So, in the whole, we're very optimistic and looking forward to the expansion."

Port authorities say they were fortunate to get their three largest customers Dole, Crowley, and Chiquita back after Hurricane Katrina. They say it's not enough just to fix the damage.

Port Director Don Allee said, "We're not content with where we were at the time Katrina struck. We've made a commitment as a Port Authority and as a state to double our size and double our ability to handle ocean going, water born commerce."

"Commodities such as export poultry. With the destruction of our freezer, that business went away. We definitely want to get back into that line of business. We've got to rebuild a freezer, but not just to handle 200,000 to 250,000 tons a year. We want to 350,000 to 450,000 to 500,000 tons a year."

Luring back previous industries, and attracting new ones are part of the five year and ten year goals.

"The thing that helps the port the most is having available real estate, so growing the port is a huge part it," said Allee. "We have the opportunity to add a minimum of about 116 more acres."

Some of that real estate is being created on the west side of the port, where Dole will eventually move its operations. The director says, in the aftermath of Katrina, he expects the master plan to cost more than the $250 million originally slated for implementation, although he isn't sure how much more. Part of those plans include starting an operation away from the water.

"Another component is looking at opportunities inland," said Allee. "The concept is known as inland terminaling. Not only for our piers, our docks and our wharfs, but also finding areas close to the port where you could conduct similar international business and cargo movement. Those types of things."