The Central Gulf & Southern Rivers Gateway region encompasses the southern heartland of the United States to include all or a portion of the states of Alabama, Florida (panhandle), Louisiana, and Mississippi.
This region includes the downstream reach of the Mississippi River and its tributaries – a vital component of the America’s Marine Highway System. Shallow draft barges carry grain (e.g., corn, soybeans, and wheat) downstream to export elevators for loading on deep draft ships for export to world markets. Those barges then carry steel products upstream to mills. Considerable barge traffic in petrochemicals forms a vital supply chain via the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. The exploration and production of oil and natural gas generates considerable maritime activity for US Flag boats (e.g., supply, crew, offshore tugs) and specialized barges in this region. The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) and onshore Liquefied Natural Gas terminals also operate in this area.
There are over 50 operating coastal and inland ports in the region. Imports to the coastal ports include petroleum products (with considerable lightering activity by tank ships), steel, rubber, coffee, and foodstuffs. In addition to grain, exports include frozen poultry and supplies for oil wells. There are several container ports experiencing growth in the region. Cruise lines are a growth market for coastal ports, and in 2012 river cruising has returned. The region also has over 100 ship/boat construction and repair facilities.
The Gateway Director serves as an expert on all regional and local maritime issues to include bulk cargoes and disaster response/recovery, port infrastructure development, marine highways, and strategic seaports. The Director also engages on federal maritime emergency preparedness issues in the region. In addition to coordinating with the private sector, the Director serves as the Agency liaison to regional federal, state and local government agencies.