While the Jackson County Port Authority was established in 1956, the Port of Pascagoula has actually been a center for trade activity since the early 1800’s. The development of the port came with the growth of commerce and transportation along the Pascagoula River System.
The Port of Pascagoula began in the 1830’s when the east branch of the Pascagoula River was dredged. The predominate pre-civil war commodity was cotton with over a million bales moving down the river. Shipyards and sawmills then sprouted along the banks of the river. Another dredging to deepen and widen the channel occurred in the late 1870’s- paid for with $50,000 in local and state funds.
Dredging Accelerates Growth
The new depth of the channel coincided with the growth of the railroad between New Orleans to the west and Mobile to the east. Soon south Mississippi’s virgin long leaf yellow pine was being shipped in barges to sawmills down stream, cut and shipped overseas to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Europe.
The advent of the steamship enhanced the sawmill operators’ ability to meet a phenomenal growth in timber demand. At the beginning of the 20th century, Pascagoula was the second largest lumbering port on the Gulf of Mexico with historical records reflecting shipments of Mississippi timber to Panama for the building of the Panama Canal. At that time, the port consisted of the Pascagoula River harbor and a natural 13-mile ship channel with an 11-foot depth.
Partnerships Key To Success
Following the era of the lumber boom, the significance of the port to private industry became apparent. By the 1940’s, shipbuilding had become the area’s primary industry and Ingalls Shipbuilding was the largest employer in the state of Mississippi.
By the late 1950’s Bayou Casotte was dredged and the harbor was opened. Public facilities now include one 175,000 sq. ft. terminal warehouse and four deep water berths. Private industries located in the harbor are Chevron Pascagoula Refinery, First Chemical Corporation, VT Halter Marine, Gulf LNG Energy, and ST Engineering Halter Marine and Offshore.
Located in the Pascagoula River Harbor are Ingalls Shipbuilding, World Marine, NOAA and the Port of Pascagoula public facilities. The U.S. Coast Guard is located on Singing River Island.
Both harbors are testaments to what can be accomplished through public and private partnerships, and this serves as a cornerstone to the Port of Pascagoula’s continued success.