The M/V Sheng Qiang, a 613-ft. Hong Kong-flagged dry bulker, docked at the Port of Pensacola July 25, becoming the first vessel to call at the Port’s newly-opened cement terminal. It is expected that the vessel will be in port 3 days while its 4,000 ton payload is offloaded by terminal operator, CEMEX USA, the largest cement company in the US.

CEMEX assumed control of a 20-year lease on a dockside warehouse from former port tenant USA Ready Mix earlier this year. Start up operations at the terminal had been plagued by delays since the original lease with Ready Mix was signed in late 2002. Initially, community concerns over potential dust and noise intrusion into the downtown Pensacola area sparked Ready Mix to invest more than $10 million in a 2-year construction project to seal and soundproof the warehouse and to upgrade both waterside and landside loaders and unloaders. Since taking over the lease, CEMEX has invested even more in state-of-the-art technology at the terminal.

Further complicating matters, the nearly-completed terminal was one of several facilities severely damaged by Hurricane Ivan last September. Left with virtually no roof and nearly a foot of storm-driven sludge covering the warehouse floor and rail spurs, an 8-month rebuilding process was completed in May. Since that time, CEMEX has been testing equipment and systems by loading and unloading barges, railcars and trucks in preparation for this first vessel arrival.

The terminal is expected to move more than 200,000 tons of cement in its first year with potential for growth in future years. Revenue to the port is expected to be in excess of _ million dollars annually, making CEMEX the port’s largest client.

Interim Port Director Leon Walker said the timing of the terminal start up is good for the Pensacola area. “There has been a shortage of cement in the local market since Hurricane Ivan and, recently, Hurricane Dennis exacerbated that situation. We hope that CEMEX’s operation here at the Port of Pensacola will provide some relief in terms of availability of product and price to area residents who are still trying to put their lives back in order.”