Already handling record cargo volumes, ports along the Atlantic Coast of Florida are making extensive investments, including in deeper channels and larger cranes, to support efficient movement of even more business.
In addition to enhancements to capabilities for handling bigger cruise ships at several ports – led by PortMiami as the longtime Cruise Capital of the World and Port Everglades and Port Canaveral – Florida Atlantic seaports have been bringing online billions of dollars worth of leading-edge infrastructure to accommodate increasingly large containerships, including those transiting the expanded Panama Canal.
Starting in South Florida’s Miami-Dade County and proceeding northward up the Atlantic Seaboard to just south of the Florida-Georgia line, here’s the lowdown on what’s going on at ports along the Sunshine State’s East Coast:
Having completed more than $1 billion of capital projects over the past few years, Miami Dade County’s PortMiami is setting records while being called upon by a growing number of post-Panamax vessels deployed by global ocean carrier alliances.
In its fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2018, the port handled an all-time high of nearly 1.1 million 20-foot-equivalent units of containerized cargo. Since bringing its channel depth to 50 feet (plus 2 feet of overdredge) in 2015, the port has worked more than 270 megacontainerships that could not have been accommodated prior to completion of the new infrastructure, which also includes a direct tunnel link to the Interstate highway system, upgraded on-dock rail and additional super-post-Panamax container cranes.
Numerous improvements have been made at Seaboard Marine’s dedicated facility, while a cargo densification project has just gotten under way at the South Florida Container Terminal. Further projects now advancing include enhanced gate technology, more refrigerated cargo racks and three or four additional super-post-Panamax cranes, to join the six such big gantries that currently are part of PortMiami’s contingent of 13 ship-to-shore cranes.
Port of Miami River
Providing longstanding links to shallow-draft ports throughout the Caribbean region, including the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the several private terminals along the Miami River’s 15-foot-deep navigational channel look to benefit from new drawbridge infrastructure and operational procedures.
The venerable Tamiami Canal swing bridge has been replaced by a bascule span with wider roadway approaches, while the U.S. Coast Guard has affirmed federal regulations offering open access to the working river for cargo vessels and has approved a test plan for adjusting drawbridge operating schedules. Also, the Miami River Marine Group, a not-for-profit alliance of river shipping interests, is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a study of storm surge risks and potential responses.
The latest Miami River terminal improvements have recently been completed by century-old Betty K Agencies, which has significantly expanded its footprint by adding more than 80,000 square feet of dockside warehouse and office space at its new East Terminal. Also, Betty K has broadened its Caribbean reach from Nassau in the Bahamas to include weekly service to Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos archipelago.
Broward County’s Port Everglades has nearly $900 million in infrastructure endeavors planned for the next five years, as part of a broader $1.6 billion capital investment initiative. A $471 million berth expansion – the largest infrastructure project in the port’s history – aims to add new cargo berths by lengthening the port’s existing Southport Turning Notch to 2,400 feet from 900 feet. This effort includes installing crane rail infrastructure for support of new super-post-Panamax gantries. Three such ship-to-shore cranes are in manufacture for the port, which has an option to purchase three additional similar gantries within five years.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in the preconstruction engineering and design phase of deepening the port’s navigation channels to between 48 feet and 50 feet from the present 42 feet, as well as widening narrower sections of the channel for facilitation of safer vessel passage.
These projects, once completed and fully functional, should significantly boost already-impressive activity levels at Port Everglades, which handled a record containerized cargo volume of more than 1.1 million TEUs in its fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2018.
Port of Palm Beach
At the Port of Palm Beach, in Riviera Beach, a new Berth 17 minislip debuted in November, allowing stern-in mooring of a 350-foot-long vessel conducting roll-on/roll-off operations. That should help keep activity on the upswing at the port, which handled nearly 2.6 million tons of cargo in its fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2018, up 3.3 percent from the preceding 12-month period, while enjoying movement of 292,304 TEUs of containerized cargo, up 3.6 percent from fiscal 2017.
The Port of Palm Beach has completed expansion of on-port intermodal rail capabilities and looks to finish by later this year development of a refrigerated container laydown area for use by Riviera Beach-based regional carrier Tropical Shipping – the port’s longtime leading tenant – on a 3.5-acre tract where an obsolete office building has already been demolished.
Another project, to redevelop the port’s more-than-half-century-old Berth 1, is moving forward as well. Kimley-Horn has been selected to handle design and construction documents and bidding services for that undertaking, for which the port is soliciting bids for sheet piles and bulkhead replacement, with construction bids to follow.
Activity at Central Florida’s Port Canaveral reached pinnacles in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2018, including handling of more than 6.4 million cargo tons, up 6.9 percent over the preceding 12-month span, driven by regional demand for lumber, aggregates and other construction materials, as well as a healthy car rental market.
Port Canaveral completed nearly $25 million in capital projects in fiscal 2018, while Gulftainer unit GT USA continues to make investments in its Canaveral Cargo Terminal.
The 270-foot-tall Liebherr LHM 600 mobile harbor crane that arrived in January is being billed by Canaveral Port Authority officials as the largest unit of its kind in the United States. Also on the cargo infrastructure front, Port Canaveral has finished extensive modernization of its North Cargo Berths 1 and 2 and is targeting completion this summer of an $18.5 million project to develop North Cargo Berth 8 as a multipurpose facility for handling diverse heavy cargos, including space rocket components, with ability to accommodate vessels as long as 850 feet with 35 feet of draft. Access roadway improvements are advancing, too.
Port of Jacksonville
Cementing its position as Florida’s busiest containerport complex, the Port of Jacksonville – where work has begun on deepening the harbor to 47 feet – handled a record of nearly 1.3 million TEUs in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2018, a 23 percent increase over fiscal 2017, fueled by continuing growth in Asian trade.
Container volumes should keep rising with the addition last October of ZIM Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. to the roster of ocean carriers calling Jacksonville Port Authority facilities. With the calls of ZIM ships in Asia and Jamaica service at JAXPORT’s Blount Island Marine Terminal, Jacksonville now offers service via more than 40 ocean carriers, including 10 of the world’s top 11 global lines.
Höegh Autoliners last year increased its JAXPORT presence with monthly calls in a new service covering ports in New Zealand and Australia. Jacksonville, already one of the busiest U.S. ports for handling vehicles, has begun a multiyear project to increase such capacity by 25 percent, including with addition of a new automobile processing facility on JAXPORT’s Dames Point Marine Terminal.
Port of Fernandina
Florida’s northernmost port, the Port of Fernandina, added three new services with G2 Ocean and Spliethoff in 2018 and has just announced an April start for monthly SDW Shipping BV service connecting Sweden and Spain to the West Coast of South America through Fernandina.
The port is positioning to achieve further gains following arrival in January of a Liebherr LHM 400 mobile harbor crane, augmenting a pair of recently refurbished cranes already in place.
Last October, the Ocean Highway and Port Authority entered into a 35-year extension to its operating agreement with Worldwide Terminals Fernandina LLC, which earlier in the year took over terminal operations from longtime operator Nassau Terminals LLC, a unit of Kinder Morgan Port Terminals LLC. Officials of Worldwide and its equity sponsor, New York-based Four Wood Capital Partners LLC, say the long-term pact, which runs through the end of 2053, facilitates sustained capital investments to bring in new business and better serve customers. Somers Isles Shipping Ltd. is celebrating a third of a century of providing containership service between the Port of Fernandina and Bermuda.