The Saint Paul Port Authority was created more than 80 years ago to stimulate business development along the Mississippi River, and the authority continues its mission today by taking it inland and redeveloping industrial spaces in ruin.  

In the 1920s, the U.S. Congress approved the dredging of a nine-foot channel in the Mississippi River between Saint Paul, Minn., and New Orleans, creating the lock and dam system. “This made the Mississippi River reliably navigable when the locks and dams were built,” President Louis Jambois says. 

Today, the port authority manages and leases space in four river terminals. Barges coming into the port mainly haul grain, sand, gravel, fertilizer, salt, cement and coal into the port. “The Saint Paul Port Authority is working harder than ever at doing what it can to assist in the movement of bulk commodities by river,” says Lee Nelson, president of Upper River Services, the port’s harbor operator. “They have become more aggressive at bringing in business.”

The Port of Vicksburg, owned and 

operated by Warren County, Miss., and the Warren County Port Commission, started operations in 1968 and has risen to become a top inland port. Located at a key junction of the Mississippi River, the 422-acre port ranks among the top U.S inland ports. 

Truck traffic at the port measures in excess of 165,000 trucks per year. These trucks import and export between 800,000 and 900,000 tons per year. The most recent study of the roughly 300 inland ports in the nation ranked Port of Vicksburg as the 11th-most active based on trip ton miles. There are approximately 1,200 employees at the port, not including the truck drivers, boat operators and rail employees who also help maintain the port.  

The Panama Canal – the shortcut between North and South America that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans – is being widened and deepened to accommodate modern oil tankers and container ships, many of which can’t currently fit through the canal’s narrowest 100-foot-wide stretches.

The $5.2 billion project on the century-old, 50-mile waterway began in 2007 and is expected to be finished in early 2016. Once it’s completed, the shipping industry – and global trade in general – stands to enormously benefit – and so does Plaquemines Parish, La.

It may be a small community – population 23,000 – but big changes are afoot, in part because of where it’s situated at the southernmost point of Louisiana. The parish (an entity analogous to a county) encompasses the last 100 miles of the Mississippi River before it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. The port’s jurisdiction is the largest in the United States in terms of land, and the newly acquired port site is 50 miles south of New Orleans. With the expanded Panama Canal expected to greatly increase river traffic, the port could be so much more, according to Maynard J. “Sandy” Sanders, executive director of the Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District.

When Robert Maxwell stepped in as the Port of Rosedale assistant director in November 2009 and then was promoted to director in July 2010, his focus was on the emergency side of things. The port, which sits on a slackwater harbor – meaning it’s located on a channel off the Mississippi River rather than directly on the river – had experienced a record flood followed by record drought the next year, which complicated operations. Because of that, Maxwell’s focus was much like an ER surgeon on a mission to stop the bleeding. Now that the port has recuperated from the worst effects of those disparate natural disasters, Maxwell is focused on the Port of Rosedale’s development phase.

“Now we’re trying to develop the port and get more business for our public terminal and bring in new tenants at the same time,” Maxwell says. “We have some projects that have been on the table for a while. 

The Port of Palm Beach is working to secure revenue to fund capital improvements to maintain and expand its facility. The nearly 100-year-old port, based in Riviera Beach, Fla., is renovating its sheet piles to keep the berth at bay while looking to update infrastructure and add markets.

The port was chartered in 1915 and is located 80 miles north of Miami and 135 miles south of Port Canaveral. Ship entrance is through an inlet channel 400 feet wide with no aerial obstructions. The Port of Palm Beach is an independent special taxing district with statutory authority to levy ad valorem mileage tax, but its Board of Commissioners has not done so since 1975. The port operates on revenue earned by the tenants that conduct business there. 

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