Port of Pascagoula is Mississippi’s busiest

The key to a successful operation is to have a mix of different cargoes moving on several trade routes.
PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) — The Port of Pascagoula moves more than 38 million tons of cargo a year and supports 19,000 direct jobs on the waterways and 37,500 indirect jobs at more than a dozen major companies and agencies.
“The key to a successful operation is to have a mix of different cargoes moving on several trade routes,” Mark McAndrews, port director since 2001.
The Port of Pascagoula’s $20 million-a-year operation is the busiest port in Mississippi.
It consistently ranks in the nation’s top 20 ports. In 2011, the Pascagoula port ranked 17th out of 149 ports in cargo volume.
For comparison, Houston ranked No. 2, New Orleans was No. 5, Baton Rouge, La., ranked 11th and Mobile, Ala., was 13th.
McAndrews said the port’s low-key nature can cause misperceptions. Commuters driving across the high-rise bridge on U.S. 90 see the docks below and think that’s all there is to the port.
That’s a very small part of the overall operation, McAndrews said.
The port operates an 11-mile-long channel into Bayou Casotte and a 13-mile-long channel to the Pascagoula River. The channel also runs 10 miles inland to the Moss Point industrial park.
Chevron Pascagoula Refinery and Ingalls Shipbuilding are the port’s biggest industries, and most people know about those. But there’s a lot more going on.
On a recent day, phosphate rock was unloaded from a barge at Mississippi Phosphates for fertilizer. The finished product will then be shipped back out.
In one of the port’s berths, kraft liner board used to make boxes is loaded onto a cargo ship bound for the west coast of South America.
From the river docks, frozen poultry — 130,000 to 150,000 tons a year — is shipped to Ukraine, Cuba and Turkey.
Mostly, however, the port focuses on Central and South American trades.
“That’s been our focus for about 12 years,” McAndrews said.
The port has a staff in Miami where “a lot of that business is conducted,” he said.
Three projects are now going on in Pascagoula. One will create a disposal area around Singing River Island while two others are widening the entrance to the channel between Horn and Petit Bois islands and widening the Bayou Casotte channel.

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