Event: Hurricane Katrina, 2005

In August 2005, the Port of Gulfport faced a severe disruption caused by Hurricane Katrina. While the hurricane event only lasted a few days, the overall disruption to coastal Mississippi lasted at least six months.

Causes and impact16

Hurricane Katrina was associated with storm surges and high winds, and significantly impacted the states of Mississippi and Louisiana, especially along the coastline. The worst property damage from Katrina occurred in coastal Mississippi, and resulted in extensive flooding and property damage. The U.S. Coast Guard Gulfport station was rendered inoperable, causing moderate to severe impacts to local supply chains. The port is Mississippi’s largest and the third busiest container port on the U.S. Gulf Coast. It is specialized in importing fruit from Central and South America, which is then distributed throughout the southeastern United States. One of the impacts of the port’s inoperability is that it led to a (temporary) regional shortage of tropical fruits and job losses across the fruit supply chain.

Hinterland and coastline infrastructure, boats and offshore oil rigs were damaged. Roadways and railways were put out of service by excessive amounts of debris and occasional collapse. Until major roadways could be cleared, deliverers of supplies and other emergency relief were forced to detour through local roads, causing significant hinterland congestion. The damage to Mississippi State Port Authority facilities, e.g. warehouses, offices, piers, wharves, railways, catwalks, fender systems, high mast lighting systems, and small craft harbour, exceeded $100 million. The disruption at the Port of Gulfport resulted in $51 million in damages, a decline in 69 per cent decline in tonnage in the following year, and a 70 per cent fall in revenues.

Response and mitigation measures

The Port of Gulfport Restoration Programme (PGRP), initiated in 2008, included the development of new container terminals, road and rail facilities to allow for expansion. The development plan included deepening the port channel, doubling its acreage, and elevating the entire platform to face extreme weather conditions Jacobs (2008-2018). The new multi-mission port platform was designed and constructed to withstand Category 4 hurricane winds and storm surges of 18 feet above high tide. A regulatory response was also taken to provide for higher/elevated emergency command centres.

Lessons learned and good practice

  • Clustering of the port community stakeholders and enhancing their cooperation can improve resilience.
  • Create a shared value for the entire port community and port ecosystem helps longer term recovery. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Port of Gulfport struggled to rebuild its facilities and cargo base. At the same time, the surrounding local community and state government aimed to reuse the port area for urban renewal of the waterfront. The state renewal plan conflicted with the Port Master Plan and port access plans, which limited port operations. The port has, nevertheless, balanced competing interests as it included: (i) container terminals; (ii) hotel/commercial land uses; (iii) marinas; (iv) shrimp fleet operations; (v) elevated highway connector roadways; (vi) rail access; and (vii) an off-dock intermodal yard.
  • Promote publicly funded large-scale flood mitigation projects, such as levees or flood gates, together with context-specific construction solutions to reduce exposure to disruptive events, while concurrently servicing trade in an effective manner.



16 This section also draws upon Eyerdam R. (2018).