Mobile Port Project Requires Massive Underground Electrical Installations

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | September 2009 Vol. 64 No. 9

Shipping has played a key role in growth of Mobile, AL, since its establishment more than three centuries ago. Situated next to a deep bay that is well suited for a port and harbor, early settlers received goods carried by ships from Asia, Europe and other parts of the world.

At the beginning of the 21st Century, Mobile was ranked as one of the 10 busiest ports in the United States. With the opening in late 2008 of the Mobile Container Terminal (MCT), the port's capacity to handle containerized cargo increased substantially.

"The opening of the Mobile Container Terminal makes the Port of Mobile very competitive with neighboring Gulf ports," says Brian Clark, the facility's director. "The significant increase in capacity has encouraged additional steamship lines to add Mobile to their rotations."

The MCT's two giant cranes dominate the Mobile waterfront. Each is 240 feet high and 90 feet wide with a 150 foot long boom, and the capability of reaching across the width of 18 containers on board a vessel and are classified as Post Panamax ship to shore cranes, meaning they are capable of unloading or loading containers from ships too large to pass through the Panama Canal.

As are most cranes of this size, MCT's cranes are powered by electricity for efficiency and because it is significantly "greener" than diesel power which releases carbon into the atmosphere.

Prime general contractor for construction of the $90 million project was R.B. Baker Construction Inc., Garden City, GA.

Any facility the size of MCT's requires large volumes of dependable electrical power, but with the two cranes depending on electrical power for operation, it makes the performance of the electrical system even more critical. The electrical contractor was Bagby & Russell Electric Company Inc., Mobile.

"All electrical components of the terminal are underground,” said Albert Hensley, Bagby & Russell vice president and project manager. "No component of the electrical infrastructure is above ground. All power loops are redundant, with two loops for each feed. If one feeder develops problems for whatever reason, there is another complete loop for back up, and the result is no interruption of normal services."

Electrical installation
Electrical construction included electrical duct banks, vaults, distribution substations, 25kv facility power and 15kv crane power with a redundant power system for each crane, and high mast and perimeter lighting.