As Alabama’s only seaport, the Port of Mobile’s role in the state’s financial prosperity can be traced back centuries, having been a crucial step in many supply chains with its expansive growth during World War II. Now, many years later the continued development and growth has seen the region deliver vast investments in manufacturing, agribusiness, and mining. All these industries benefit from the port’s activities, which has allowed the port to become one of the most prominent seaports in the United States. Therefore, the Alabama Port Authority was established in 2000 to position the Port as a strong link and partner across supply chains, facilitating the transportation of goods and materials across the port and connecting them with the crucial rail, roads, river, and runway links.
With 18 diverse cargo handling facilities and a port with direct access to 45-foot deepwater, nine railroads and air, truck and barge movement options, the Port is a vital player connecting the state with the local and international movement of cargo. We know this as annually the Port is responsible for bringing 85 billion USD to Alabama’s economy, providing seamless services to manufacturers and industries around the world. Therefore, the Port provides a gateway for all types of cargo, including aggregates, automobiles, breakbulk, coal, cold storage, containers, forest products, general cargo, liquid bulk, metals, and project cargo. Therefore, the connected nature of the port is second to none, and so has been a key area for development to continue to serve and develop Alabama’s cargo industries. Consequently, the Alabama Port Authority has invested over 1.4 billion USD into the port over the last 20 years to modernize and grow its facilities to support its customers’ needs.
In June 2023, the State of Alabama allocated 20 million USD to the McDuffie Coal Terminal to increase the current port incentives to provide greater benefits to businesses. The McDuffie Coal Terminal handles metallurgical and bit coal across rail, barge and truck links. Coal in Alabama is metallurgical and so is a key component in steel making as it is recognised industry-wide as some of the finest metallurgical coal in the world, making it a crucial development for the port to continue to contribute to the state’s overall economic development.
John Driscoll, Director and CEO of Alabama Port Authority commented in a press release for the funding that “At the Port our mission is to help Alabama’s economy grow”. He adds later that “The Port is proud to deliver lower landed costs to shippers through the optionality and fluidity we provide. In addition to these operational advantages, the increased incentives for businesses to use the State’s Port will make Alabama even more competitive in the global market”. We can see from Driscoll’s comments that the Port is striving through every investment to make a mark on a range of industries, to promote both the Ports reputation and the State’s role in the development of the global economy.
This investment comes as Alabama Port Authority announced its 2022 stats a few months early, which saw the port handle 563,191 twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) over the year, which reflects the 9th year in a row that the Port of Mobile has announced a double-digit growth since 2009 at 11%. The intermodal rail volumes continue a 31-month record of triple-digit growth and ended the year with 142% growth compared to the previous year’s figures. Additionally, the container terminal handled a record number of 312 vessels, an increase of 75 vessels from the previous year.
However, Alabama Port Authority is not slowing down its development, and expects to see its capabilities reach one million TEUs upon the completion of the 6th expansion phase at the container terminal, and the deepening and widening of the harbour. Further planned expansions include constructing a fly-over bridge, creating on-dock rail access for the container terminal, modernising the general cargo piers and developing an in-land intermodal facility in North Alabama.
However, Alabama Port Authority is not just concerned with the economic and operations expansion of the port, they are equally as concerned with ensuring environmental standards across all the port facilities and forwarding links. Alabama Port Authority have been Green Marine certified since 2018, which is the largest environmental certification program in North America and provides a framework that the marine industry adheres to, to ensure that the industry can reduce its environmental footprint. Consequently, the Alabama Port Authority is committed to ensuring environmental and sustainable practices and programmes are implemented into all its business decisions, port development plans and daily operations. Its goal is to work towards improving its practices and stewardship regarding the quality of air, water and of soil and sediment. They are also committed to ensuring wildlife habitats are protected, waste management initiatives are followed, and energy consumption regulations are implemented across all operations to improve the environmental conditions in Mobile and the surrounding area of Alabama.
At present, the Alabama Port Authority has implemented electric ship-to-ship cranes at the McDuffie Terminal, Pinto Island Steel Terminal and the Container Terminal. It has repowered locomotives to smart idle/EPA-certified off-road industrial engines to help reduce the particulate matter and nitrogen oxides that are produced from their diesel emission, which has already reduced emissions by 90% and has been further developed with a no-idle policy. The whole facility also works to ensure that recycling is carried out throughout the port, and twice a week the near-shore and shoreline is inspected. The shoreline work allows the port to monitor the waterways are make sure they are not impacted by environmental damage, and should an instance occur they have the facilities through its environmental programmes to provide clean-ups where releases could have a negative impact on the waterways. However, the Alabama Port Authority is continuing to work to develop the operations of the port towards sustainable success and working to support the surrounding areas through further wetlands developments, conversion to LED lighting and removal of invasive species.
Overall, Alabama Port Authority is working to promote the port’s operations towards global markets through its expansive network of forwarding links due to its ideal geographical position on the Gulf Coast and at the centre of many transport links both by land, sea, and air. As the only port in Alabama, it makes a crucial part of the State’s economic development to aid in the facilitation of import and export cargo whilst providing the local communities with vast employment opportunities. However, the Port Authority is not just concerned with economic success, it is equally as concerned with ensuring that its environmental impact is kept to a minimum and promotes sustainable and environmental programmes throughout its vast range of operations.