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What’s next for JaxPort? CEO sees methodical growth

Posted on March 14, 2023

In a “What’s Next” speech during the State of the Port luncheon, JaxPort CEO Eric Green talked about upcoming construction projects, parcels of property that the authority hopes to lease for shipping activity, and how Jacksonville can take advantage of $1 billion worth of port-related investments over the fast five years.

Here is what Green said at the luncheon, sponsored by the Propeller Club of Jacksonville, and in an interview after the event about the port authority’s plans.

More cargo containers but not a record-setting amount

JaxPort’s tenants set a record for cargo containers in the 2020-21 fiscal year with about 1.4 million TEUs, which stands for 20-foot equivalent units. But that dropped to just under 1.3 million TEUs in the 2021-22 fiscal year. So far this year, JaxPort is on track to finish better, but it still would be a few hundred thousand TEUs short of its best year.

Green said the shipping industry has been turbulent the past two years, but it’s settling down and shippers are deciding what the best ports are for them in the long-term. He said he expects JaxPort will break its previous record for cargo containers in the not-too-distant future.

“We’ll surpass where we were in the next 18 months or so,” he said. “What you’re seeing is the trend is being very methodical.”

The biggest ships are getting bigger

Green said the global shipping industry continues to order construction of bigger ships, and those will be making their presence felt in Jacksonville.

The ZIM USA ship with a capacity for carrying 11,923 TEUs tied the port’s record for biggest ship when it arrived in December as part of a regular rotation through Jacksonville.

Green said the newest ships being built are typically in the range of 13,000 to 15,000 TEUs. He said it’s possible JaxPort might get a 14,000 TEU ship later this year.

SSA Marine, which operates at the Blount Island terminal and specializes in serving the big ocean-crossing ships, is working to double its land-side capacity at Blount Island so it can handle 500,000 TEUs annually starting in 2024.

“What I do tell people is you better get your placeholder in Jacksonville,” Green said of the capacity that will be available after SSA completes its expansion.

Automobile shipments are flat compared to last year

JaxPort, which has long been one of the East Coast’s busiest ports for moving automobiles, hit a high point in the 2018-19 fiscal year when tenants move about 696,000 vehicles. In the past fiscal year, that was down to about 553,000 vehicles.

So far this year, the number of vehicles is the same as last year.

Southeast Toyota, a long-time JaxPort tenant at the Talleyrand terminal, is in the design stage for building a larger processing site at Blount Island. When Southeast Toyota akes its move, JaxPort will decide how to best use the 75-acre site vacated by Southeast.

Green said another 28-acre site at Talleyrand and a 40-acre site at the Dames Point terminal also offer possibilities for JaxPort to decide what the best use of those parcels are for cargo growth.

Green said JaxPort will seek to maintain the competitive advantages it has for being able to move cargo across its docks while enabling ships to get in and out of the port faster than at other ports.

“It’s doing the things that got us here,” he said.

Toilet paper and towels drive up breakbulk cargo

Metal cargo container boxes and automobiles are the most recognizable measure for cargo activity, but JaxPort has been experiencing growth in the bulkport category, which includes paper products that end up being sold at supermarkets when shoppers purchase paper towels and toilet paper.

JaxPort tenants moved about 990,000 tons of breakbulk through the port in the 2022 fiscal year and so far this year, the tonnage is on track to be 22% higher.


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