A giant crane at the west bank of the Lowndes Country Port loads tractor-trailers with scrap metal on Friday. A Mississippi Department of Transportation grant is funding an extension at the port. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
July 23, 2018 11:17:28 AM
The Lowndes County Port Authority has received a more than $450,000 grant from Mississippi Department of Transportation to expand the West Bank Port location.
The project, which will cost approximately $476,317, will add a 250-foot crane rail extension, allowing operators to offload two barges simultaneously, increasing the capacity of raw materials to be off-loaded and taken to Steel Dynamics, Inc., according to a press release the Port Authority released last week.
MDOT will provide $466,317 in grant funding for the project, leaving the remaining $10,000 for the Lowndes County Port Authority to fund.
"We're very fortunate that MDOT allows this grant every year," said Will Sanders, director for the Port Authority. "Without these types of funds, we would not be able to continue these economic development projects every year."
Initially, the port will increase its current tonnage by at least 20 percent, which could eventually lead to doubling the current amount of tonnage coming through the port each year, Sanders said. The addition to the port will create three to five jobs, he said, including barge and crane operators.
The port's extension will not only increase the efficiency, but stands to increase the port's profits.
"We get paid by our tonnage, so as the tonnage increases we'll get paid more," Sanders said.
However, Sanders would not disclose to The Dispatch the total tonnage the port sees in a year for concerns it would give other area ports a competitive advantage. MDOT documents found online indicate just short of 1 million tons passed through the port in 2012.
Officials estimate the new extension will begin this fall and take about a year to complete.
SDI, which utilizes the port, receives approximately 20 percent of its raw materials through the port alone. General Manager Madhu Ranade said SDI will highly benefit from the port's extension.
"It will improve the barge unloading capabilities," Ranade said. "So we can get our raw materials faster to the plant. With the increased capacity, we may consider bringing in other materials there as well. It is a benefit to us, our key raw materials come in through that part of the port. Just having that extra crane would make the unloading go a lot faster and smoother. It's a good situation for the port as well as for us."
The Lowndes County Port began operation in 1987, consisting of two barge terminals on the east and west banks of the Tennessee-Tombigbee. The port unloads raw materials ranging from general cargo, steel coil, raw steel, fuel and limestone to numerous industries in the Golden Triangle and nearby counties in Mississippi and west Alabama.
"These improvements will make the Lowndes County Port more efficient and allow for increased through-put," said Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins in a prepared statement. "The more product moved on the Tenn-Tom, the stronger the waterway becomes as an asset for our region."
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