Port adopts new blueprint for its expansion

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Port of the Future is officially the blueprint Mississippi State Port Authority commissioners will follow. On Friday, the port authority unanimously approved a rebuilding concept that will drastically alter the look of the Port of Gulfport.

Now that the port's blueprint has been adopted, the real work begins. The port must hire engineers to see what it will take to expand south, and create an island. Plus, it must come up with a specific budget to determine exactly what the port of the future will cost.

In a meeting that lasted less than a minute, the Mississippi State Port Authority adopted a new roadmap for its aging, and storm damaged container terminal. Don Allee is the port's executive director.

"I think the greatest thing about today is the fact that community did have input, and they did have an impact on what the plan represents," he said. "But also, it is a plan that the commercial shipping sector will absolutely be able to live with."

Chiquita may be one of the first tenants to capitalize on the port of the future concepts. At a ceremony celebrating news that Chiquita extended its Port of Gulfport lease through 2019, the company's senior vice president applauded the facility's new plans.

"The vision for the port is very much aligned to what we also want the port to be," Waheed Zaman said.

If the port gets permits to build everything in its new master plan, the facility will become the gulf's largest container terminal.

Governor Barbour calls the port of the future the beginning of a great new story for Mississippi.

"It's huge. It's visionary. And it's totally appropriate," said the governor.

The port's new master plan expands the facility south instead of west. Cargo ships would dock on a manmade island that sits as much as 25 feet above sea level. Nearly $600 million in Katrina recovery funds plus private investments would pay for the new port.

"We certainly hope to be in the process of development starting today within five years I think," said Allee.

According to the master plan, the current port area could be developed into an entertainment district. Port leaders think that will help downtown Gulfport attract new investors.