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Mississippi native heads port’s newest carrier

GULFPORT — Crowley American Transport’s decision to move its Mexican and Central American shipping operations from Lake Charles, La., to the Mississippi State Port Authority (MSPA) helps offset a downturn in poultry exports while enhancing the port’s reputation as a strategic center for trade with Latin America.

Crowley American Transport’s president is Jackson native P. Elliott Burnside. Burnside, who has a B.S. in transportation from Mississippi State University, heads the company that was named Best Ocean Carrier Serving North America for the third year in a row by Brazilian shippers.

Crowley, which operates 49 oceangoing ships and barges and provides liner cargo services to 54 ports in 39 Latin American countries, has the most extensive network of offices of any transportation carrier in the region. The company, founded in 1892, has 2,200 employees in North America, and 1,345 employees in Latin America. It is headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Oakland-based Crowley Maritime Corp.

Anthony J. Taormina, executive director of the MSPA, said that Crowley’s decision selecting the Port of Gulfport shows the strategic importance of the port.

“The addition of Crowley American Transport to the Port of Gulfport will greatly enhance the Port Authority’s capability to bring transportation solutions to Mississippi businesses and other shippers to and from the U.S. Gulf Coast,” Taormina said.

Crowley decided to locate in Gulfport because it is strategically located to inland markets the company serves, said Dick Simpson, vice president of public relations for Crowley. He said the second basic reason for selecting Gulfport was excellent cooperation from the management of the port.

Crowley will be averaging one 550-foot vessel call every five days, 80 annual calls, activity that will aid longshoremen’s employment recently impacted by a downturn in poultry shipments to Russia. Taormina said that Crowley’s activity combined with existing vessel calls of the Great White Fleet, Dole Fresh Fruit and other port customers will make Gulfport the hub port for shippers to Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula.

Oversight and management of the vessel service will be handled by Crowley personnel in the company’s New Orleans office.

“We look forward to bringing Crowley’s award-winning quality service to this new port, and expect that it will be well received by shippers in the region,” said Rinus Schepen, vice president and general manager for Crowley’s Central America and Mexico Services. “Operating from Gulfport will create the opportunity for an expanded range of customers to utilize our services.”

The new carrier provides justification for the MSPA’s decision to invest $140 million in an 84-acre expansion to add container storage, and develop a centralized support area to improve access and services for customers. John Rester, president of the board of port commissioners, said Crowley’s decision to move operations to Gulfport proves that the port authority and the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development are on the right course by expanding the port’s maritime capabilities.

Taormina said one of the key business goals of the port’s strategic master plan was to attract a major cargo carriers.

“This past year the Port of Gulfport identified Crowley America Transport as a key target for the Mississippi Public Container Terminal,” Taormina said. “When we heard about the changes at Lake Charles, the Port’s Business Development Division immediately went to work to contact Crowley and to demonstrate how we can support their service with our facilities and the Port’s excellent work force.”

Burnside, speaking recently at the Third Annual Southeast Trade Conference and Shippers’ Dialogue in Jacksonville, said the ocean shipping industry of yesteryear is being replaced by a new industry that is faster, better and in some cases, cheaper, for shippers. Burnside said that global distribution strategies adopted by shippers increasingly require carriers to offer a comprehensive breadth of service and a single point of contact for shipments to worldwide users.

“The future carrier will provide asset supported services to both shippers and other carriers — some with assets and some without — as well as purchase services from other providers for its own customers,” Burnside said. “The future carrier will be both a buyer and a shipper for others, and represent a virtual one-stop shipping mall. This virtual mall will be made up of companies that have intentionally and strategically aligned themselves for the purposes of serving a customer, a group of customers, or a trade lane.

“There will be truckers, railroad operators, forwarders, container shipping companies and possibly container leasing companies. They may provide warehousing, packaging, sub assembly, assembly, collection, delivery and administration billing, internally and externally.”

The future carrier will be the “store front” for all of this activity, which will occur in the back room, out of sight to the customers. Burnside said shippers are increasingly less concerned with who handles their products at various stages than they are with finding a single service provider that can manage their entire supply chain. In the future, the user will only have to deal with one entity, and that will be over the Internet, making the process faster.

More information about Crowley American Transport is available at the company’s Web site, www.crowley.com.

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Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com.

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