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Alabama Port Authority projects record-high operating revenues in 2024

The Alabama State Port Authority, which owns and operates the Port of Mobile, projects operating revenues in 2024 to reach more than $174.5 million, a projection that was shared Monday during an ASPA Board meeting in Auburn.

Melissa Jordan, vice president of finance for the ASPA, shared the record-high revenue projections with board members, but noted that the numbers had yet to be fully vetted and analyzed. A more comprehensive 2024 budget would be available in August, she said.

Operating revenues for the port have been climbing for years; for fiscal year 2018, which ended Sept. 30, the port’s total operating revenues were just under $135 million. In 2020, revenue grew to nearly $140 million, and again to $164.5 million in 2022, an 11.4% increase.

Maggie Oliver, spokesperson for the ASPA, told Alabama Daily News that the port’s success was largely thanks to state and federal investments, which the Port Authority said created more than $85 billion in economic value for the state in 2021, and generated more than 313,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Alabama State Port Authority Board members hold a July 25 meeting in Auburn.

During the most recent legislative session, lawmakers continued to support the Port of Mobile. House Bill 293, sponsored by Rep. Chip Brown, R-Hollingers Island, will expand tax incentives for companies that ship goods out of Mobile when it goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024.

Lawmakers also allocated $20 million to the port in the 2024 budget for upgrades to coal moving equipment, something ASPA Board Chairman Bestor Ward said will play a major role in future revenue streams.

“You’re seeing a tremendous amount of growth in coal shipments out of the port, and when you see those types of things, it’s material moving in and out of the port from all over the whole state, whether it’s chicken, wood products, all types of things,” Ward told ADN.

Ward also pointed to a number of improvements either recently completed, like its $60 million vehicle roll-on-roll-off terminal and vehicle processing center, or currently underway, such as the $365 million project to deepen and widen the channel.

“We will be a 50-foot-deep port in 2025,” Ward told ADN. “The Panama Canal is 50-feet deep; there is no 50-foot-deep port in the Gulf of Mexico besides Mobile, so when that ship turns out of the Panama Canal, it has to come to Mobile.”

The Port Authority is also continuing work on an inland port in Montgomery, with Ward hinting that an additional inland port may come to Birmingham in the future.

“We’re in the process of trying to pull together an inland port in Montgomery, (and) we’ll probably pull together additional inland ports in the Birmingham area in the north end of the state,” he said. 

“I think as we improve the connectivity around the state, what you’ll see is more rail traffic going into Montgomery, going into these other areas. What that also means is all the growth coming through the containerized shipping is taking some of those tractor (and) trailers off the highway so we don’t have as many trucks going up and down the highway.”

Ward said he had high expectations for the port in the coming years, telling ADN that Mobile “could very well” be the busiest port in the Gulf of Mexico within ten years.

“What you’ll see I think in ten years will be mind-boggling,” he said. “So we’re excited.”

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