July 30, 2014

International Trade

Fla. Ports Racing to Handle Giant Cargo Ships

The Panama Canal is undergoing the largest expansion in its 94-year history. Florida wants to be in on the action.

Cynthia Barnett | 7/1/2008

Big and Bigger
Sizing up the newer generation of cargo ships

Panamax vs. Post-Panamax
5,000 containers 12,000 containers
965 feet 1,200 feet
106 feet 180 feet
41 feet 50 feet
[illustration: Jeff Papa]

Florida Port Priorities

Priorities were ranked by the Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development Council and submitted to the Legislature for state matching funds this year. Of $183 million requested for the $372 million in projects, none was granted.

» Port Canaveral: Petroleum berth improvements; King George Boulevard expansion

» Port Everglades: Two cruise terminal expansions; midport cranes; Northport bypass road

» Port of Fernandina: Warehouse project

» Port of Jacksonville: Dames Point improvements

» Port Manatee: Berth 12 construction and improvements; intermodal container terminal facility

» Port of Miami: Cruise terminal, wharf, cargo terminal improvements; purchase of cranes

» Port of Palm Beach: Slip 3 redevelopment

» Port Panama City: Bulkhead replacement, mobile harbor crane

» Port of Pensacola: Freezer warehouse

» Port of Tampa: Port Redwing improvements; Eastport development improvements; Hookers Point terminal improvements; Petroleum and liquid berth improvements

John Rood, a Jacksonville real estate developer who served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas and worked closely with Freeport Container Port, says he thinks the global market — rather than port authority or Army Corps officials — ultimately will decide how Florida’s ports expand. Rood sees opportunities for public-private partnerships (so-called P-3s) between ports and private companies to help ports grow. He cites Freeport, a transshipment hub where large carriers divvy cargo onto smaller ships bound for secondary ports. The operation is a public-private partnership between the port authority and Hutchison Port Holdings of Hong Kong, one of the world’s largest port operators. “The government of Bahamas never would have had the investment power or technical skill that Hutchison brought,” Rood says.

Some efforts at public-private collaboration are already under way at Florida ports. Mitsui O.S.K. Lines is paying for $211 million of its $230 million terminal at Jaxport, and Ferrin is pitching creative financing for several other infrastructure projects.

The challenges don’t end at the docks, however. Crucial for Jaxport is a $40-million intermodal container facility to handle the cargo that Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Hanjin and other shippers will bring. At least 30% of all cargo will need to come or go by rail, and Jacksonville’s CSX-owned intermodal terminals are on the opposite side of the city from the port.

Indeed, when it comes to the projected cargo increase, highway and rail congestion and connection problems are an even bigger issue for Florida than on-port infrastructure. “We’re only as strong as our weakest link,” says Wainio, whether that be lack of rail in central Florida or tractor-trailer congestion in downtown Miami. “You have to look at this from a strategic and statewide perspective.”

Officials with the Florida Ports Council, who work to coordinate and lobby on behalf of all 14 ports, agree on the need for more intermodal capacity. “To think about global logistics is big-picture for Florida, but this controls everything,” says Nancy J. Leikauf, the council’s executive vice president. “From the cost of our lumber to the trucks on our highways to the jobs — are port jobs going to be created here or in Savannah? We need to look at the global picture and take these funds that are so precious and expand capacity where it is most needed.”

Post-Panamax Ship
Post-Panamax ship [Photo: Nordcapital]

Tags: Around Florida

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