- Associated Press - Friday, April 11, 2014

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - The state port commission is considering whether to buy three cranes, costing a total of $29.8 million, from Shangai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co. in China.

The massive cranes can serve vessels far larger than Gulfport’s ship channel will accommodate, but port officials hope the federal government eventually will fund and dredge a deeper channel.

The cranes, equivalent in height to an average 23-story building, would tower over Gulfport’s waterfront, where the 14-story Hancock Bank is now the tallest structure.

The Sun Herald reports (http://bit.ly/1gRVkRN ) the Shangai company on Thursday submitted the only bid the port received for the cranes.

The Port Commission is expected to decide in two weeks whether to accept the bid of about $10 million a crane — at least $2 million per crane less than previously estimated.

Though American companies once built cranes, the industry has moved since the 1970s to countries with lower labor costs: first Japan, then Korea and China. The port’s executive director, Jonathan Daniels, said requirements for hiring local workers, including low- to moderate-income residents, are included for the installation of the cranes, expected about mid-2016.

The rail-mounted gantry cranes will be installed on the West Pier as part of a $570 million restoration and expansion the federal government is funding for post-Katrina economic development.

Daniels said the cranes can be used to unload cargo from ships with broader beams that do not necessarily need deeper channels. The cranes also would give the port flexibility to move heavier objects.

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Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com