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State Port reopens after collision in shipping channel

There’s a story we wrote for this week’s Mississippi Business Journal that takes a look at the possibility the State Port of Gulfport could see some increased ship traffic due to flooding issues at the Port of New Orleans.

Mississippi’s port was shut down entirely late last week for something that had nothing to do with flooding or New Orleans, after a 660-foot container vessel collided with a 163-foot pogy boat owned by Texas-based Omega Protein. The pogy boat sank. Three of the 16 crew drowned; their bodies were recovered over the weekend.

Here’s where the port comes in: The two vessels were in the Gulf Shipping Channel when they collided, so instead of continuing toward Texas, it circled back to the port’s harbor as authorities sorted out exactly what happened. While dive crews searched for the crew members, the U.S. Coast Guard shut down all inbound and outbound traffic at the port.

Don Allee, executive director of the Mississippi State Port Authority, told Magnolia Marketplace Monday morning that the Coast Guard decided early Sunday morning to reopen the port with restrictions. The main restriction, Allee said, limited ship traffic to daylight hours only.

The restriction will most likely remain in place until the sunken pogy boat is either recovered or moved out of the GSC.

“It’s probably safe to say that once the vessel is removed, normal operations will continue,” Allee said, estimating that would happen within the week, though the exact timetable is strictly up to the Coast Guard. He added that the port does have lighted buoys that could line the GSC “under perfect conditions” that would allow nighttime shipping.

Two vessels were scheduled to arrive Monday at the port, and they  had already been given the all-clear from the Coast Guard, Allee said. The Eurus London, the container ship involved in the collision, left Gulfport Sunday morning with its load of bananas headed for Texas.

“The sunken boat doesn’t prevent much from happening,” Allee said.

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