Steve Howard, left, motions for Josh Bishop to pull forward as coal is loaded into a truck on Monday at SSA Logistic Services at the Lowndes County Port. Coal is moved by a crane from a barge in the river to the truck on a conveyor belt. Once in the truck, it is dumped in large piles on the property. The crane currently being used to move coal will be replaced with a grant from MDOT. Photo by: Jennifer Mosbrucker/Dispatch Staff
The Lowndes County Port can be seen in this aerial photograph taken Wednesday evening in Columbus.
Photo by: Courtesy photo
The train bridge over the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway allows train cars to move from the river's west bank to Lowndes County Port on the Kansas City Southern railway.
Photo by: Jennifer Mosbrucker/Dispatch Staff
September 13, 2019 10:10:07 AM
For the second time in 14 months, the Lowndes County Port Authority has landed a major grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation to upgrade equipment at its facilities.
Port director Will Sanders confirmed the port has received a $739,000 MDOT grant that will go toward the purchase of a new crane for its east bank operations.
"We're very pleased to get this grant," Sanders said. "The current crane we're using was built in 1972 and was badly in need of being replaced. We're on our fourth rebuilt engine. It's on its last legs."
Sanders said he applied for the $939,000 grant, with the port providing $200,000 of that total as a match.
Under new guidelines, the purchase of the crane will go through an online reverse auction process where the port will list its specs and manufacturers will bid on providing the equipment.
"The old crane was a 100-foot crane with a four-yard clam shell bucket, but we are looking for a 110-foot crane with a five-yard clam shell," Sanders said. "That will allow us to unload and load more efficiently and, of course, we won't have to deal with the crane breaking down and being out of operations the way the current crane has done. We're excited for what this will mean for our operations."
In July 2018, MDOT awarded the port a grant of $476,317 to add a 250-foot crane rail extension on the west bank that allows operators to offload two barges simultaneously.
"The west bank is primarily off-loading where as, on the east bank, we are both off-loading and on-loading," Sanders said.
The reverse auction begins on Oct. 3. Once a bid is accepted, Sanders said it would take about four months for delivery and installation.
Port Authority Board Chairman Charles Miller said he is thrilled with the improvements the port will see from the grants.
"Will's leadership has been phenomenal in putting us in the position to do these things," Miller said. "(Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins) has always wanted us to get the port ready for the next big thing and Will has been instrumental in doing that. I give him a lot of credit."
Higgins said the new additions are a big boost to the port's operations.
"We were told that the grant they got last year would increase the efficiency of the port by 20 percent, just by adding that extension," Higgins said. "Now, with a new crane on the east bank, they'll have increased both efficiency and capacity. It's a big deal."
Sanders said the port handles more than 1 million tons of product shipped in and out the port each year. The port is home to two large shipping companies -- Watco and Logistics Services, both of which service Steel Dynamics, Inc. Watco handles about 90 percent of the scrap metal shipped up the river to Columbus and SDI while Logistics Services handle the bulk of river transport of finished steel product, which is shipped north.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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