New Turning Basin is Complete!
Sunday, Sep 19, 2010
- Friday, Dec 31, 2010

MOBILE, Ala. -- Local politicians and Alabama State Port Authority officials recently tossed biodegradable wreaths of flowers into the water to dedicate new turning basin in the Mobile River ship channel.

The turning basin, finished Aug. 6 after nearly a year of work, will allow the massive vessels that frequent the Mobile Container Terminal, the McDuffie Coal Terminal and the Pinto Island Terminal to turn around without having to sail upriver almost to the Cochrane-Africatown USA Bridge.

It will save hours of travel time, plus money spent on both gasoline and tugboat operators, officials said.
"Every little bit can make a difference in whether or not you win an investment, you win a shipping contract, or someone else does," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile. "This will make us more competitive."

For Port Authority officials, it also means fewer headaches trying to handle the extra traffic upriver at a port that is the country's ninth-largest by volume.

"As the port grows, we have to be conscious of future congestion," said Jimmy Lyons, chief executive of the Port Authority, which runs Alabama's state docks. "We've got a lot of new ships and a lot of larger ships. Being able to turn down here is very significant to us."

The turning basin, which measures 1,175 feet by 715 feet, is between the container terminal and the Pinto Island facility where ThyssenKrupp delivers steel slabs. It cost $33 million, with the Port Authority picking up about $11.5 million and federal money covering the rest. Part of the federal funding included money that came from the 2009 stimulus plan.

About 2.5 million cubic yards of material was removed from the bottom of the channel, according to Lyons. Pat Robbins, a spokesman with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said officials were able to use about 800,000 cubic yards of material to help fill in Garrow's Bend behind the container terminal, where the port wants to build a new rail yard. Another 600,000 cubic yards of fine sand was placed near Sand Island, where it will eventually be swept up by currents and replenish barrier islands. The rest of the material was taken to an ocean disposal site, he said.