The Alabama State Port Authority this week welcomed the NSU VOYAGER, which loaded a Port of Mobile record 135,484 short tons (122,909 metric tons) of export metallurgical coal at McDuffie Coal Terminal.
This Newcastle Max class bulk carrier also matched the previous record bulk ship to call the port, tying the MARAN COURAGE in measuring 984.2 feet (300 meters) in length overall with a width of 164.3 feet (50 meter beam). The MARAN COURAGE, another Newcastle Max, called on Alabama’s seaport earlier this year.
During their respective McDuffie calls, both vessels exclusively loaded Alabama met coal bound for Asian markets.
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.
Rick Clark, deputy director and chief operating officer for the port authority, noted in a Tuesday release that the increased Newcastle Max calls match growing Post-Panamax vessel calls into Mobile, in part due to ongoing infrastructure investments.
The port authority, its partners and the federal government have recently invested over $1.2 million combined in further shore-side and channel improvements to service growth in the region’s mining, manufacturing, agriculture and retail distribution industries.
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 in recent weeks signed the project agreement to complete the historic deepening and widening of the Mobile Harbor Ship Channel by late 2024 or early 2025.
“We’re rapidly achieving our goal to deepen the channel to -50 ft. draft, and shippers are seeking ports where they can soon leverage capacity opportunities,” Clark advised in a statement.
“When our channel is deepened, the Newcastle Max will be able to load far more tonnage, generating more capacity and better rates to service international market opportunities,” added Clark.
The harbor improvements, along with the port authority’s recent terminal investments, technology and personnel training, primarily serve coal and containerized shippers using the larger bulk and container vessels.
“The ability of the Port team to handle this larger class of vessel in an efficient and effective manner is a tribute to our customers, assets and staff,” concluded Bernard Scott, manager of McDuffie Terminal. “It takes a team effort, and in today’s challenging markets, this is something to celebrate.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn