Jacksonville Inks $238 Million Deal for Port Expansion

Date: Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Works will include channel deepening that will enable port to handle bigger ships handling more U.S. container trade

Florida’s third-biggest seaport is expanding a major container terminal and deepening its shipping channel in projects costing hundreds of millions of dollars and aimed at positioning the port to handle a bigger share of U.S. ocean trade.

The Jacksonville Port Authority signed a 25-year, $238 million agreement with Seattle-based port operator SSA Marine this week to expand a container terminal on Blount Island to accommodate more large ships.

The project is part of a $480 million plan to upgrade facilities in Jacksonville, the latest investment at U.S. East Coast ports looking to attract the larger container ships that can travel from Asia through an expanded Panama Canal.

The agreement will expand SSA’s 50-acre International Gateway Terminal facility to 80 acres by 2023. SSA will invest $129 million in the facility. At the same time, the port authority is moving forward with a broader plan to deepen the channel facing the Atlantic Ocean.

When completed, the terminal will be able to handle ships carrying up to 14,500 containers each, the biggest vessels now able to serve most ports on the U.S. East Coast. Those ships are a growing part of the trade scene on the Atlantic since an expansion of the Panama Canal enabled bigger vessels to come from Asia.

Shipping volumes at U.S. East Coast ports have increased faster than business at West Coast ports since the canal expanded in 2016 as importers have sought to bypass the overland transport leg to large East Coast population centers. The canal expansion also has triggered major investment at ports looking to capitalize on the bigger ships, including projects at the Port of New York and New Jersey and Georgia’s Port of Savannah.

Container imports into Atlantic ports rose 7.8% in 2018 from the year before, according to the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, compared with 4.7% growth on major West Coast ports.

Jacksonville’s container import volume rose 11.9%, far faster than the growth at the state’s two biggest ports, Miami and Port Everglades. It is the eighth busiest gateway on the U.S. East Coast.

The SSA terminal is used currently to move cargo to Puerto Rico. SSA said it could eventually expand to 120 acres as more land becomes available and would help the port expand its role in trade with South and Central American nations.

The port authority will invest $109 million for berth upgrades and other facilities.

SSA Marine is a subsidiary of Carrix Inc., which operates more than 250 terminals across the world.

 

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