Two members of the Federal Maritime Commission visited the Port of Mobile Wednesday, talking with local officials and industrial leaders, viewing expansion projects in progress and praising the port as one of the most efficient in the nation.
Throughout discussions, officials emphasized the importance of the port not just in Mobile but throughout the state, referring to it repeatedly as “the Port of Alabama.”
Winning special praise was a new intermodal hub under construction in Montgomery, connecting the capital city to the port by direct rail service. That’s slated to open in 2025.
Commissioner Carl Bentzel, describing the Port of Mobile as the fastest growing container port in North America, also said it is one of the handful that has been able to move cargo efficiently during the past two years of logistical challenges nationwide.
Commissioner Louis Sola praised the effective use of funding granted to date, turning the port into a world-class operation.
In the past few years, the port has increased cargo capacity to 1 million twenty-foot equivalent units or TEUs annually, added both a new freezer facility and a new automobile handling facility, and kicked off a deepening and widening project to accommodate bigger ships.
“Everybody in Mobile recognizes the significance of the port,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson told the commissioners. “We haven’t felt the impact of the deepening and widening of the channel, nor have we felt the impact of the moving of the airport next to the port, so the future growth — it’s already the fastest growing port in North America — but in the future, I’m not sure where the slowdown point is going to be once these projects are completed,” Stimpson added.
Sen. Clay Scofield, who represents Marshall County and is state senate majority leader, noted that his region is a major poultry producer so that the export capabilities of the port are important even at the far north end of the state. He added that he’d be happy to see the port add another intermodal hub farther north after the Montgomery facility is complete.
“If the port of Mobile does well and has better access, then our companies and our industries will do better in North Alabama,” Scofield said.
Sola, who last visited the port three years ago, said he was especially impressed that the port has doubled the amount of cargo it handles since his last visit.
Bentzel, reiterating that the Port of Mobile is the fastest growing container port in the U.S., added that there’s room for more growth.
“It is vital to our nation that we have a system of delivery of containerize cargo.” Inflation has been caused by congestion in the delivery system, he said, adding, “Our nation relies on cargo shipped all over the world.”