A deeper ship channel has been scrapped as part of a study on future expansion at the state port, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has confirmed.

The Corps undertook an expansion study in 2011 that was modified in 2013 to include deepening the ship channel from 36 feet to 42-47 feet. Channel deepening is seen as a key to port growth. Without a deeper channel, the port will be unable to compete for cargo being hauled on larger ships that require drafts deeper than Gulfport can offer. What’s more, the port is spending about $30 million on three, rail-mounted gantry cranes designed for bigger vessels.

“The cranes are being built with an eye toward the future with a deeper channel,” port Executive Director Jonathan Daniels said. “If we needed to get additional cranes after deepening the channel, we would be chastised for not being forward-thinking. In addition, the cranes are not used exclusively for container handling. With the longer reach, it allows for us to work barges that may be rafted up alongside a vessel to allow us to go from ship, to an outer reach and directly into a barge/”

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