Ongoing Investments Help Mobile to Load Record Coal Shipment

infrastructure investments help Mobile to load record coal shipment
NSU Welfare loading record export shipment – courtesy of the Port of Mobile

Published Oct 15, 2020 7:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

Efforts that are underway at the Port of Mobile to enhance the facilities helped the port recently set a new record for the amount of coal loaded in a single shipment. The Alabama State Port Authority reported another export coal shipment record, loading 146,479 short tons (132,883.5 metric tons) of Alabama metallurgical grade coal bound for Asian markets afrom Mobile’s McDuffie Coal Terminal.

The coal was loaded to the Newcastle Max class bulk carrier, NSU Welfare, which departed the port of Mobile on October 6 bound for Kisarazu, Japan where she is expected to arrive on December 2. The vessel, which has a maximum capacity of 208,480 DWT, measures 984.2 feet in length, equaling the previous record bulk ship call.

Ongoing infrastructure invests at the port are contributing to the increased calls by Newcastle Max and post-Panamax vessel to Mobile according to Rick Clark, deputy director and chief operating officer for the Port Authority. “We’re not only deepening the channel to a 50-foot draft, we are also investing in shore-side infrastructure at McDuffie to improve throughput efficiencies and expand export capacity.”

The program to deepen the channel is getting underway with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Port Authority recently signing the project agreement, which will lead to the awarding of the channel construction contracts by year-end 2020. The first of six contracts was awarded in September to Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company. The $8.3 million contract will construct approximately two miles of channel, including the port’s entrance, to the 50-foot depth. 

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. 

“We’re striving to match terminal improvements with our channel expansion,” said Bernard Scott, manager of McDuffie Terminal. “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 metallurgical coal market is in demand and on the upswing with nearly $1.4 billion in recent or planned mining investments according to local officials. Alabama’s low sulfur, high-quality coking coal is ideally suited for steelmakers. Currently, Alabama holds about 4 billion tons of economically recoverable coal reserves, with 80 percent of those reserves comprised of metallurgical grade coal, according to a 2019 Auburn University at Montgomery economic impact study

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.