USACE & Jaxport Looking to Raise Power Lines to Dredge Further Up Channel

Jacksonville’s two main marine terminals are undertaking steps to handle larger vessels following dredging of the main ship channel. Photo credit: Jaxport

Posted on May 27, 2022

After dredging its main channel to handle larger ships, the Port of Jacksonville now needs to raise power lines that span the waterway because they limit the size of the vessels that can readily call the port’s second largest container terminal by acreage.

The power-line raising would be a coda, and a small percentage of the cost, of the larger $420 million dredging project that the port, one of its main terminal operators, the state and federal government just completed, seven months ahead of schedule and below its original budget.

The next steps at the port involve dredging further up the channel to Jacksonville’s largest container terminal by acreage. Even with the dredging, though, ships calling at that terminal will still face some air draft restrictions due to a bridge that is unable to be moved.

Jacksonville Port Authority on Monday said 11 miles of the St. Johns River from the Atlantic Ocean up to the Blount Island Marine Terminal have been dredged from 40 feet to 47 feet. The $420 million project allows post-Panamax ships to transit the channel.

The dredging culminates nearly two decades of planning at the port. The dredging, which Jacksonville began studying in 2005, started in February 2018, the port’s statement marking the occasion.

The dredging was originally scheduled to be completed in December 2022, the Jacksonville Port Authority said in a statement to the Likewise, the project was originally budgeted at $484 million, the port added.

The funding came from the port authority itself, alongside terminal tenant SSA Atlantic, the city of Jacksonville, the Florida Department of Transportation, and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The port attributed to under-budget and ahead-of-schedule dredging to bringing together diverse partners that all had a stake in the project’s quick completion.

“Keeping the funding on schedule was critical,” the port’s statement said. “To our knowledge, this project is the first of its kind to include funding from a private business. We have a number of public-private partnerships in the works or completed. ”

Along with dredging to Blount Island, the US Army Corps of Engineers has authorized and is reviewing whether to dredge another two miles of the St. Johns up to the Dames Point container terminal. The funding for that additional two miles, though, has not been approved by Congress. Ceres Terminals took over Dames Point from its previous operator TraPac in February.

But the current height of six power transmission lines that span the St. Johns River limit the size of vessels that can call Jacksonville.

The largest ship that has arrived at Blount Island was a 12,000-TEU vessel on the 2M Alliance’s TP10 service from Asia, but the service more typically uses 8,000- to 10,000-TEU ships. The port said that the power lines, which are about 175 feet above the river, need to be raised to 200 feet to handle the 14,000- to 18,000-TEU ships that can now transit because of the dredging.

Inflation could raise project costs

JEA, formerly known as the Jacksonville Electric Authority and the owner of the lines, released an engineering report this month that estimated raising the power lines would cost about $41 million. However, the report also gave a range of estimates between $33 million and $54 million that stem from the ongoing effects of inflation and worker shortages.

The JEA report said that time is of the essence to achieve the lowest cost on the project because “current supply is very limited and prices are expected to continue to rise, with increases likely to extend well into 2023.”

Jacksonville Port Authority said that it will meet in June with the JEA, which doesn’t want to foist the cost of raising the power lines on its customers. The JEA said in a separate statement to the project would take about four months to complete following approval for the necessary permits.

“We have a meeting scheduled with JEA and the US Army Corps of Engineers…outlining a project timeline and other next steps to keep the project moving forward,” the port’s statement said.

SSA, Ceres to invest in Jaxport

The port and its marine terminal tenants are making major bets on larger vessels calling both Blount Island and the Dames Point Marine Terminal. SSA Marine, which operates the 93-acre container terminal at Blount Island, is investing $80 million along with a $20 million grant from the US Maritime Administration to upgrade the terminal. Those upgrades include yard improvements, densification of container stacks, and three new container cranes that are expected to be delivered next year.

Those forthcoming improvements follow the port authority’s $100 million in berth upgrades at Blount Island that were also completed with the dredging and allow the Blount Island terminal to handle two post-Panamax ships simultaneously.

Ceres has also committed $15 million in upgrades to Dames Point terminal, which encompasses 158 acres. But that terminal will still face restrictions on its ability to handle post-Panamax ships due to a nearby bridge that imposes a 175-foot height limit on vessels. The port said there are no plans to raise the bridge and that Dames Point’s ability to handle larger ships will depend on tidal restrictions and vessel utilization.

Contact Michael Angell at and follow him on Twitter at @michael_angell. 


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