Bulk carrier NSU Welfare in early October loaded 146,479 short tons, equal to 132,883.5 metric tons, of Alabama metallurgical coal bound for Asia, where it fuels steel making. The load set a new export coal shipment record for the Alabama State Port Authority at the Port of Mobile.
NSU Welfare is a Newcastle Max class carrier, which — at 300 meters long with a 50-meter beam — ties the record as the largest bulk carrier to call at the port’s McDuffie Coal Terminal.
The increase in Newcastle Max calls reflects the investments in progress at the port, said Rick Clark, deputy director and COO of the Port Authority. “We’re not only deepening the channel to 50-foot draft, we are also investing in shore-side infrastructure at McDuffie to improve throughput efficiencies and expand export capacity.”
The first six of the channel improvement contracts, valued at $8.3 million, were awarded in late September to Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company LLC, not long after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Port Authority signed project agreements for the project.
The improvements are part of $45 million in capital improvements in progress at McDuffie to allow for more and bigger ships. “We’re striving to match terminal improvements with our channel expansion,” said McDuffie Terminal Manager Bernard Scott. “Our focus shore-side will be in new equipment, equipment upgrades and yard management to accommodate the anticipated export coal needs of our customers.”
The demand for Alabama metallurgical coal is rising and some $1.4 billion in mining projects have been announced recently. Auburn University at Montgomery estimates that Alabama has 4 billion tons of recoverable coal reserves, 80 percent of it the metallurgical grade in demand for steel production, particularly in Asia.