Federal Maritime Commissioners laud the growth of the Port of Mobile | Techy Kings


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November 16 two visiting members of the Federal Maritime Commission praised the growth, diversity and import-export balance of the Port of Mobile.

Commissioners Carl W. Bentzel and Louis E. Sola spoke briefly to the media in the evening, as did Alabama Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield and Mobile, Ala., Mayor Sandy Stimpson.

As a group, they spoke highly of the major expansion projects the port has undertaken in recent years, such as a project to extend the ship channel to Mobile Bay and open container rail traffic directly from the port to industrial centers in central Alabama. Those projects aren’t finished yet, Stimpson said, but they’ve set the stage for continued growth in the coming years.

“We haven’t really felt the impact of the deepening and widening of the channel at this point,” Stimpson said. “We did not feel the impact of moving the airport near the port either. So future growth… I’m not sure where the slowdown point will be.

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Commissioners noted that major ports on the east and west coasts have experienced congestion during the pandemic, making cellphones an option. “It’s been three years since I was last here,” Sola said, “and a lot has happened in the last three years. We’ve had COVID, we’ve had supply chain issues, and we’ve had congestion across the country. That three-year span put Mobile on the map for a lot of people. … I was very pleased to hear today that in just three years they have doubled the amount of cargo carried.

“I don’t see anything but an open road to the Alabama side,” Sola said.

“The Port of Alabama is the number one fastest growing container port in the United States,” Bentzel said. “It’s impressive.”

Bentzel said the nation depends on the smooth flow of freight, and he’s heard many horror stories about supply chain problems in recent years. He described the port as “one of the most important growth areas for US ports. It’s still relatively small, but there’s plenty of room to grow.

“We are a nation of consumers,” Sola said. He said he could think of only three ports in the country with a roughly 50-50 import-export balance, and Mobile was one of them. “Most of them are 70, 80 or 90% imports,” he said.

“Most of that is exports [from Mobile] is agricultural,” he added.

For ports like mobile, which gained new business during the pandemic as shippers looked for new opportunities amid supply chain disruption, it remains to be seen how much of that business will survive: Shippers could go back to their old ways if and when things return to normal, or they can stick new routes. Commissioners had a mixed but generally positive outlook on mobile.

Gantry cranes are located in the yard of the APM terminals of the mobile port

Gantry cranes are located in the yard of the APM terminals of the mobile port. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News)

“I think it’s a little bit of both,” Bentzel said. In some cases, he said, shippers have invested heavily in facilities at specific ports, so it is not easy to abandon them. “But I also think they’re thinking long-range, that ‘I’ve got to be able to have alternative places to import cargo or export cargo,'” he said. “So I think that given the contributions, the economic interests, most companies are more flexible about delivery and at least securing opportunities because of the big challenges that we’ve had in places like Los Angeles, Long Beach and New York.” in the larger ports where there was heavy and heavy congestion.

“If you hit your finger with a hammer, you usually don’t do it again,” Sola said, arguing that shippers won’t soon forget the lessons of the pandemic era.

“Delays and congestion are still there, so people are looking for alternatives,” Bentzel said.

Scofield said he was prepared in part because the north Alabama area he represents is a major poultry region. Poultry exports through Mobile have been growing since 2021. a large new refrigeration facility opened near the port.

That growth illustrates how the port’s impact reaches far inland, Scofield said.

“This is important for the entire state of Alabama,” he said. “If the Port of Mobile does well and has greater access, our businesses and industries will do better in north Alabama.”

Port officials said poultry exports in 2022 are about 26% higher than in 2021.

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