GULFPORT -- The state port is trying to land its biggest tenant, a company that would use a patented system to condition and liquefy gas on the West Pier for shipment to the Caribbean and Puerto Rico.
SeaOne Gulfport LLC's first production facility and export terminal is estimated to cost $450 million, with expansion plans that would in 10 years quadruple the tonnage going through the port, Executive Director Jonathan Daniels said.
Initially, Daniels and SeaOne President and COO Bruce Hall said, 35 engineers and other production employees would be needed, with support personnel adding another 35 jobs in accounting, marketing and security. The average salary would be $70,000. Hall hopes the company can start construction in late 2016 or early 2017, and start shipping to customers by early 2019.
On Monday, Harrison County supervisors and the Gulfport City Council unanimously approved an agreement that writes off 50 percent of SeaOne's personal property taxes for 10 years. The company would pay the other 50 percent, which would amount to about $4.5 million a year in city, county and school taxes.
SeaOne would lease all of Terminal 4 from the port for its startup operation and future expansion. The terminal sits at the West Pier's southern end and totals about 36 acres for production use. It is part of the acreage the port added with $570 million in federal funds provided for economic development after Hurricane Katrina.
SeaOne would contract with a pipe company to deliver natural gas and gas liquids to its port production facility. Two pipelines -- one for natural and one for liquid gas -- would need to be extended from east-west pipelines that run near Interstate 10. Hall said SeaOne is negotiating with pipeline companies to deliver the gas. He also said the new pipelines would run west of -- not through -- the Turkey Creek community and North Gulfport, where residents have been concerned about noise and pollution from the port's expansion.
Both Daniels and Hall said one of the project's biggest pluses is that it adds significant tonnage, and therefore revenue, to port operations without increasing truck or rail traffic.
"Effectively, at the end, it could quadruple the tonnage moving through here without adding any congestion in the community," Daniels said. "We feel that's a significant benefit."
The additional business also would help the port make a case for a deeper ship channel. The current channel is at 36 feet, deep enough to comfortably handle SeaOne's vessels but too shallow for the newest generations of container ships.
Hall said Central American countries have a pressing need for cheaper energy, which SeaOne would be providing.
"Our customers are the ones that buy the commodities," he said. "We don't buy, nor do we sell, the commodities, so when the prices go up, that doesn't affect us. We are just a service provider."