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Jaxport lays out big plans as channel deepening nears completion

CEO Eric Green said Jaxport is paving the way to a future serving more — and bigger — ships with its biggest growth initiative, the deepening of the Jacksonville, Florida, shipping channel, on track for a May completion.

“The solution to the nation’s port congestion problem is right here in this room,” Green said during his State of the Port address Tuesday. “As the industry looks to combat everything from truck capacity issues to labor and equipment challenges, protecting the supply chain is a global priority. That’s where Jacksonville’s modern deepwater seaport comes in.” 

The deepening project includes construction of a basin to allow larger container ships to turn at Blount Island Marine Terminal berths. In coordination with the deepening of the channel to 47 feet, more than $100 million in berth enhancements will be completed this summer to enable the SSA Jacksonville Container Terminal at Blount Island to simultaneously accommodate two post-Panamax ships. By the end of the year, SSA Atlantic will receive three eco-friendly container cranes and complete the first 20 acres of a modernization project to enable the facility to accommodate more containers, according to Jaxport. 

Jaxport CEO Eric Green delivers his State of the Port address. (Photo: Jaxport)

In addition, Ceres Terminals has committed $15 million in private investment in cargo-handling equipment and systems at the Dames Point Marine Terminal. Jaxport said that to build on its position as one of the nation’s top vehicle-handling ports, it also is expanding a roll-on/roll-off berth at Blount Island to dock two vessels from a single berth.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made a stop at Jaxport last week to announce that Singapore-based ocean carrier Sea Lead has selected Jacksonville as a port of call on its first-ever U.S. East Coast service. 

The Asia East Coast (AEC) service will call the SSA Jacksonville Container Terminal every two weeks, beginning with the arrival of the Hakuna Matata, with a capacity of 6,661 twenty-foot equivalent units, on May 7. The port rotation is Nansha, Ningbo and Qingdao, China; Busan, South Korea; Norfolk, Virginia; Newark, New Jersey; Charleston, South Carolina; and Jaxport. 

“We are delighted to introduce this new service and new destinations for our customers. Port congestion has been a challenge for everyone recently and the AEC will allow us to service ports that are more efficient for our customers,” Cho Kit Wei, Sea Land’s managing director, said in a company announcement. “We are confident that the market and our partners will respond well to the service and we look forward to developing strong partnerships on this trade lane.”

Sea Land currently calls only one U.S. port, Long Beach, California, through a trans-Pacific service launched last June.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announces Sea Land will call Jaxport beginning in May. (Photo: Jacksonville Port Authority)

Jaxport was part of another first in late February, when Eagle LNG fueled the 7,500-car carrier Siem Aristotle from the Talleyrand LNG Bunker Station in Jacksonville. It was the first time Siem had refueled the vessel from a landside bunkering facility and the first ship that Eagle LNG refueled of that size at JAXPORT. 

Siem Aristotle is the first deep-sea pure car and truck carrier equipped with dual-fuel engines and designed to operate on liquefied natural gas and marine gas oil. It is on a dedicated service for Volkswagen Group transporting vehicles from Emden, Germany, to the U.S. East and Gulf coasts and Mexico. 

“This milestone is another evolution in the growth of Jacksonville’s LNG capabilities,” Green said. “Our Jaxport partners have invested more than $1 billion in LNG advancements throughout the region, making Jacksonville well positioned to serve the growing clean fuel needs of our customers around the globe.”

Jaxport said it moved a record 1.4 million containers in fiscal year 2021, which ended Sept. 30. It also handled more than 616,000 vehicles. 

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Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.