The Alabama State Port Authority has set another all-time single-vessel export record by shipping out 146,479 short tons (132,883.5 metric tons) of Alabama metallurgical grade coal from the Port of Mobile’s McDuffie Coal Terminal.
The coal was recently loaded onto the Newcastle Max class bulk carrier, NSU WELFARE, which also matches the record for the largest bulk ship to ever call the port in measuring 984.2 feet (300 meters) in length overall with a width of 164.3 feet (50 meter beam). All of the met coal loaded onto the vessel is bound for Asian markets.
This export haul bests the previous tonnage record set this summer by the NSU VOYAGER, also a Newcastle Max class bulk carrier. The NSU VOYAGER at the time had beaten a record set by the Newcastle Max class bulk carrier, “MARAN COURAGE,” earlier in the year.
All three ships now jointly hold the record for vessel size to call Alabama’s seaport.
Rick Clark, deputy director and chief operating officer for the Port Authority, noted the increased Newcastle Max calls match increasing Post-Panamax vessel calls into Mobile, in part due to ongoing infrastructure investments.
The crown jewel of these continuing improvements at the Port of Mobile is now on the horizon and is expected to bring even further record-shattering growth. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Port Authority over the summer signed the project agreement to complete the historic deepening and widening of the Mobile Harbor Ship Channel by late 2024 or early 2025.
The project agreement allows the awarding of channel construction contracts by the end of 2020. The Corps awarded the first of six contracts to Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, LLC on September 28. This $8.3 million contract will deepen by 50 feet approximately two miles of channel, including the port’s entrance.
However, there are important shore-side investments being made also.
“We’re not only deepening the channel to -50 ft. draft, we are also investing in shore-side infrastructure at McDuffie to improve throughput efficiencies and expand export capacity,” Clark advised in a statement.
The harbor improvements along with the Port Authority’s planned multi-phase, $45 million capital improvement program at McDuffie are oriented toward meeting increasing vessel size and projected shipper demand.
Bernard Scott, manager of McDuffie Coal Terminal, stated, “We’re striving to match terminal improvements with our channel expansion. Our focus shore-side will be in new equipment, equipment upgrades and yard management to accommodate the anticipated export coal needs of our customers.”
Alabama’s met coal market, already in high global demand, is on the upswing with approximately $1.4 billion in Yellowhammer State mining investments being announced recently. Currently, the state holds about four billion tons of economically recoverable coal reserves, with 80% of those reserves comprised of met coal, according to an economic impact study conducted by an expert at Auburn University Montgomery.
And, as previously reported by Yellowhammer News, Alabama’s met coal industry and the Port of Mobile enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship.
The Alabama State Port Authority owns and operates the State of Alabama’s deep-water port facilities at the Port of Mobile, and its public facilities handle more than 26 million tons of cargo annually. The Port Authority’s container, general cargo and bulk facilities have immediate access to two interstate systems, five Class 1 railroads and nearly 15,000 miles of inland waterway connections.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn