Ports & Terminals

Corps Endorses Mobile Harbor Deepening

The harbor deepening movement taking the nation’s coastal waterways by storm has come to Alabama’s Port of Mobile. The Alabama State Port Authority (ASPA) has announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Atlantic Division signed the Record of Decision for the Mobile Harbor General Re-evaluation Report (GRR) and the Integrated Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on September 6.

In other words, the Corps has endorsed a plan to deepen the Mobile Harbor to 50 feet.

According to ASPA, the next step will be a design agreement between the Corps and the port authority to initiate the pre-construction, engineering and design phase. Construction could begin late next year.

The proposal is to deepen the bar channel from the Gulf of Mexico to 52 feet and the bay and river channels both to 50 feet. Additionally, the plan calls for widening the bay channel for three nautical miles to allow two-way vessel traffic, expanding the current turning basin for Post-Panamax ships, and incorporating a “minor bend easing” in the lower bay channel.

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Ahead of the Corps’ Record of Decision, ASPA and its terminal operator, APM Terminals, have already been preparing for the channel deepening by investing in terminal enhancements. Phase 1 was completed in 2017, with phase 2 of the expansion launched in 2018.

“With completion of the phase 3 expansion, the port and its partner, APM Terminals, will have nearly $500 million in container intermodal assets to serve our customers,” said ASPA Director and CEO James Lyons. “As demand dictates, we’re positioned to respond quickly to further expansion.”

The port expects phase 3 to be completed in February 2020. That expansion will allow for simultaneous berthing of two Post-Panamax vessels and will bring the annual throughput capacity of the terminal to 650,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

The port authority initially requested the study into deepening Mobile Harbor in June 2014. More recently, in light of cargo growth and shipper demand, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law the Rebuild Alabama Act in March 2019, which allocates a portion of the state’s fuel tax proceeds to support the $150 million in bonds needed to meet the anticipated federal cost-share requirement for the harbor deepening.