With several having enjoyed landmark years in 2016, ports along the Atlantic Coast of Florida are advancing infrastructure enhancements to accommodate still greater cargo volumes.
From deepening of channels to adding more extra-large container cranes to establishing better rail and road links, numerous projects are moving ahead to efficiently handle increasing demands.
Here’s the dish, beginning in Miami and heading north up the East Coast of Florida to just south of the Georgia line:
“Big Ship Ready” continues to be the mantra at Miami-Dade County’s PortMiami, which over the past few years has completed more than $1.3 billion in infrastructure enhancements, making it prepared to handle containerships carrying as many as 13,000 twenty-foot equivalent units of cargo.
The project bringing its channel and alongside berth depths to 50 feet was finished in mid-2015, a year in advance of completion of wider Panama Canal locks, while on-dock intermodal rail service via Florida East Coast Railway and the new PortMiami Tunnel beneath Biscayne Bay provide efficient inland links for the island seaport, which now boasts six super-post-Panamax cranes among its 13 container gantries.
For a second straight fiscal year, PortMiami topped the 1 million TEU mark in containerized cargo moves in the 12-month period ended Sept. 30, 2016, and it appears on target to maintain that pace in the current fiscal year. The port also announced a world-record 4.98 million handlings of multiday cruise passengers in 2016.
Port of Miami River
With its 15-foot-deep navigational channel, the Miami River has served as a longtime link with shallow-draft ports in Caribbean, including those of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and now a study is looking at introducing barge feeder service from PortMiami to the nearby river.
The Florida Department of Transportation last fall launched a study that includes examining potential for using barges to each bring between 200 and 400 containers to Miami River terminals from large containerships calling PortMiami. The boxes could then be moved to existing rail lines that parallel the river or to trucks.
Meanwhile, the Miami-Dade County Metropolitan Planning Organization is studying the feasibility of the boring of a tunnel to take Brickell Avenue/U.S. 1, which currently crosses the river via drawbridge, beneath the Miami River. That would alleviate roadway and river bottlenecks, but the price tag, while not yet pinpointed, is likely to be prohibitively steep.
Broward County’s Port Everglades, which surpassed the 1 million TEU milestone in containerized cargo activity for the third straight time in its fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2016, is hopeful its long-awaited channel project is coming to fruition. The endeavor has received federal authorization for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with deepening the port’s navigation channels to 48 feet from 42 feet, as well as widen them. The project is now in the preconstruction engineering and design phase and is cleared to proceed through permitting and federal funding processes.
A separate project is under way to lengthen the existing deepwater turnaround area for ships at the port’s Southport container terminal turning notch to 2,400 feet from 900 feet, facilitating addition of as many as five more berths and erection of as many as six new super-post-Panamax gantries.
Also, construction is proceeding via public-private partnership on a new Foreign-Trade Zone logistics center to include a 240,000-square-foot warehouse with attached 45,000-square-foot office building on nearly 17 acres.
Port of Palm Beach
Officials of the Port of Palm Beach are proud to report achieving more than $16.6 million in revenue in the fiscal year concluded Sept. 30, 2016 – the best performance in the Riviera Beach port’s 101-year history.
The port recently finished an $18.5 million redevelopment of its Slip 3 and looks to complete by November a $12.2 million project to construct a minislip at Berth 17, to allow a vessel as long as 350 feet to dock at a roll-on/roll-off ramp south of Slip 3.
In addition, the port is completing a master plan update, moving toward a December effective date; is about to begin a $1 million upgrade to rail lines, replacing lightweight track on wooden ties with 136-pound-per-yard welded rail on concrete ties; and has submitted environmental permits for Berth 1 redevelopment, with construction slated to commence in fiscal 2018-19. The port is currently seeking proposals for highest and best use of Berth 1, with a closing date of March 31.
In Central Florida, GT USA’s 20-acre, two-berth Canaveral Cargo Terminal is beginning its second year of hosting weekly calls by Seatrade Group unit StreamLines N.V., with volumes steadily increasing aboard purpose-built refrigerated vessels connecting Port Canaveral with Central America, the Caribbean and Europe.
Port Canaveral secured its first vehicle-processing operation last August, under contract with AutoPort Inc. for operations at a 20,000-square-foot building on a 16-acre tract, and is receiving fortnightly imports of about 1,000 new vehicles via NYK Line roll-on/roll-off ships.
The diverse port, with extensive cruise and recreational offerings in addition to varied cargo-related business, also is increasing capacity for handling of petroleum imports and seeing expansion of operations of longtime tenants Morton Salt and Hanson Slag, while former Hapag-Lloyd USA chief executive Capt. John W. Murray, now in his second year as Port Canaveral’s CEO, is working with U.S. Air Force leadership at neighboring Patrick Air Force Base on cooperative routing for future rail service.
Port of Jacksonville
Northeast Florida’s Jacksonville Port Authority, which moved a record 968,279 TEUs of containerized cargo in its fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2016, has seen completion last year of the Mile Point project to remove a harbor navigational restriction and is looking toward start of construction before yearend on the federal undertaking to deepen the shipping channel to 47 feet.
Recently finished JAXPORT dock and rail improvements include addition of three new 100-gauge container cranes at the Blount Island Marine Terminal and opening of a $30 million intermodal container transfer facility adjacent to Blount Island and Dames Point marine terminals.
The port also continues to be a leader in handling heavylift project cargos; has added to its import vehicle volumes with Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics bringing in 2017 Infiniti QX30 crossovers; and is growing as a hub for grapefruit exports to Asia. Also, Michaels Stores Inc., North America’s largest arts and crafts retailer, has begun moving merchandise through a regional distribution center in the port’s Foreign-Trade Zone.
Port of Fernandina
To the north of Jacksonville, just south of the Florida-Georgia line, the Port of Fernandina, operated by Kinder Morgan unit Nassau Terminals LLC, is enjoying heightened export activity to Bermuda with several hotel construction projects and increased tourism in advance of the island hosting the 35th America’s Cup of sailing in June. Somers Isles Shipping Ltd. is now in its 31st year of providing container service between the Port of Fernandina and Hamilton, Bermuda.
The Port of Fernandina last year began receiving imported steel rebar and brought online an additional certified scale replacing a former weight-in-motion setup. Bids are now being sought for replacement of the dock fendering system along the port’s 1,200-linear-foot berth.
Surrounded by numerous large industrial production facilities, such as those of WestRock Co., the port is attracting new intermodal transfer and value-added services, including receiving and stuffing containers for one customer even when its boxes are headed for a destination not served by vessels calling the port.