Transportation & Logistics

Jacksonville’s Ports Generating Significant Impact To Region

The Jacksonville Port Authority (JAXPORT) and the Port of Fernandina, the area’s two deep-water ports, continue to set records with recent highlights and activity to remain globally competitive.

JAXPORT recently set a new port record in April 2019 with the arrival of the ZIM vessel Kota Pekarang, the largest container ship to ever call on Jacksonville.

The 11,923-TEU (container) vessel is operated by ZIM on a service offered by the 2M Alliance, comprised of Maersk, MSC, Hamburg Süd and strategic partners HMM and ZIM. The Kota Pekarang, which transited the Panama Canal from Northeast Asia before reaching the U.S. East Coast, discharged and loaded cargo at JAXPORT’s Blount Island Marine Terminal.

The previous largest ship to ever call on JAXPORT took place in March 2019 when the 11,000 TEU ZIM vessel Cape Sounio docked at Blount Island.

JAXPORT is Florida’s No. 1 container port complex by volume, offering worldwide cargo service aboard the world’s major shipping alliances with direct service to Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, the Caribbean and other key markets.

The port has grown Asian container volumes nearly 100 percent since 2012 with local jobs associated with JAXPORT’s Asian business grew more than 57 percent in a five-year period.

JAXPORT also recently signed a new lease agreement with its current tenant Seattle-based SSA Marine to be the operator of the port’s new Blount Island international container terminal with a $298 million, 25-year facilities lease agreement and continues to be a leader in liquefied natural gas (LNG) production and usage.

As vessels continue to be built with a deeper water draft, the need for deeper water at ports around the world is becoming more of a necessity. JAXPORT is answering the call with a deepening project underway.

The harbor deepening project consists of 13 miles of deepening that will take the existing 40-foot channel to 47 feet. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began the project in February 2018 and it is anticipated to be completed in five to six years.

The U.S. Army Corps divided the project into four sections beginning near the mouth of the St. Johns River from the Atlantic Ocean. JAXPORT’s focus is on funding the first three segments to Blount Island to start receiving increased cargo aboard larger cargo ships. The deepening will eventually include the Dames Point Marine Terminal.

As part of the project, new turning basins will be added and there will be full two-way traffic with further widening at strategic locations. The project consists of widening at Mile Point, the Training Wall Reach and St. Johns Bluff Reach plus construction of two new turning basins at Blount Island and Brills Cut.

The harbor deepening project is a significant investment that will greatly benefit the region’s advanced transportation industry, with more than 15,000 new jobs being created by the project. For every $1 invested in deepening, $24 will be returned to the economy. The project has been reviewed by the best environmental modeling in the world, plus peer review by scores of independent scientists, that advocate for the environmental safety of the full project design.

The Port of Fernandina also continues to see success and growth, with U. S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross touring the port in April 2019 and highlighting its recent successes and growth.

“They’ve designed this port for the kinds of products that are being exported, and that’s the way to make it work. Be a specialist, dominate segments of the trade,” said Ross.

Timber is one of those segments, largely due to Rayonier, the fourth-largest timber operator in the world and headquartered in Wildlight, located in Nassau County.

The port is also working on improvements including bringing in new equipment and potentially deepening the channel to 40 feet, as well as working to secure a barge system between Nassau County and Savannah, Ga.