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Kim Berfield: New legislation seeks to help strengthen Florida ports with greater access to clean natural gas

Posted on January 31, 2024

Florida is home to the three busiest cruise ports globally.

Florida is renowned for its extensive and strategically located seaports, which play a crucial role in the state’s economy. This Legislative Session, I’m working to strengthen our state’s infrastructure so that our ports can capitalize on new technologies and innovations that reduce costs and carbon emissions.

Our ports serve as the gateway to the Americas, facilitating trade between the United States and countries in South America, Central America and the Caribbean. Often referred to as the world’s cruise capital, Florida is home to the three busiest cruise ports globally.

With so much activity at our ports, it’s no surprise they are also a source of innovation.

Over the past eight years, Florida’s ports have been at the forefront of the clean energy transition, investing in infrastructure to produce and facilitate the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and compressed natural gas (CNG). Our ports have installed LNG processing centers, expanded natural gas exports to the Caribbean, welcomed a growing fleet of LNG-powered cruise ships and added state-of-the-art bunkering barges.

Today, the domestic and international maritime community increasingly turns to LNG to fuel cargo and cruise ships due to its financial feasibility, abundance, efficiency and safety. In fact, new cruise ships, car carriers and container ships are adopting LNG at a rate faster than fueling infrastructure can be developed.

It’s not just ships; cargo handling equipment such as cranes, drayage trucks and forklifts are also switching to LNG and CNG, significantly reducing costs and emissions. A recent industry-led feasibility study found that natural gas is the optimal alternative fuel for cargo handling equipment, accounting for up to 85% of seaport operations emissions.

As demand grows for alternative fuels, it is clear that LNG is not only a premier fuel source for powering vessels and cargo handling equipment but also a commodity for import and export.

The United States now leads the world in natural gas exports, with proven reserves for the next century. And Florida has already been leading the maritime industry’s charge on natural gas development. The expanding supply of natural gas in the U.S. and the increasing demand for the product worldwide presents an incredible opportunity for Florida through increased import/export operations as well as on- and near-port uses.

Moreover, CNG and LNG play a crucial role in enhancing energy security. According to the nonprofit Empowerment Alliance, natural gas powers over 30% of America’s energy needs, reducing our energy trade deficit by 87%. Alternative fuels provide a domestic and abundant energy source, reducing dependence on foreign sources and mitigating geopolitical uncertainties.

However, LNG requires specialized infrastructure for supply, storage and delivery to vessels. The number of ports worldwide that have developed the necessary infrastructure for LNG is limited, though growth is accelerating quickly. We can’t afford to be left behind.

We must ensure that Florida continues to invest in the infrastructure necessary to develop and utilize alternative fuels. I have proposed legislation, HB 1275, promoting strategic transportation infrastructure investment so we can continue a pathway toward economic resiliency, environmental sustainability and national security.


Rep. Kimberly Berfield sits on the Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee and the Transportation & Modals Subcommittee. She represents Pinellas County (HD 58).


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