Dredging at the Port of Gulfport is finally set to begin by September 1st. Red tape and financial concerns delayed the Army Corps of Engineers from dredging sooner and opening the channel for bigger and better business. Now, a new agreement between the port and Camp Shelby may change the port's relationship with the Corps of Engineers.
With so many military bases close to the Port of Gulfport, the port is working towards acting as a hub for troop mobilization and demobilization. Jonathan Daniels, Executive Director of the Port of Gulfport, says, "When you look at the southeastern defense corridor from Camp Shelby to Keesler to Stennis, the Naval Construction Battalion, all the other assets that we have here, with the restoration project, it makes sense that we're able to utilize this facility for Department of Defense activities."
Gulfport could become a strategic port with the Department of Defense, if approved for the partnership with Camp Shelby. Being designated a strategic port would give Gulfport more influence with the Army Corps of Engineers, who fall under the Department of Defense. Daniels also says, "It ups the ante for us and certainly is something we would use to leverage additional dredging funding, deepening funding in the future."
It has taken months of paperwork and waiting to make dredging a reality, but that process could be sped up in the future if there is a relationship with Camp Shelby, and in turn, the Department of Defense. A partnership with Camp Shelby would also mean good news for port workers as well. Daniels also says, "Not only does it enhance business, it allows an opportunity for the longshoremen to get more hours under their belt."
This will help ease the blow as the port's main tenant, Chiquita, prepares to leave for the Port of New Orleans, taking dozens of jobs with it. Howard Page of the Steps Coalition says, "We're concerned that since we've only lost jobs so far, and pretty badly lost jobs so far, and net creation has been zero. We're concerned the jobs are due next year, 2015."
This partnership is expected to help the port move closer to meeting the requirements of the half billion dollar post-Katrina grant for expansion by retaining or creating 2,586 jobs. As part of the restoration project, the port is also in the early stages of developing a small craft harbor alongside Island View Casino’s new hotel.