Officials Friday broke ground on a $239 million upgrade of the Blount Island Marine Terminal in the Port of Jacksonville, Florida, that will expand container handling capacity at the SSA Marine facility to 700,000 TEU annually when work is complete in 2023.
“This facility represents a milestone in the evolution of our port,” Jacksonville Port Authority (JAXPORT) vice chairman Jamie Shelton said in a statement.
Operations will continue throughout the renovation of SSA’s existing 80 acres of terminal operating space. The facility features three post-Panamax electric container cranes, “and terminal plans include the addition of three more state-of-the-art container cranes,” JAXPORT said.
Berth upgrades should be completed in 2021, allowing the terminal to handle two post-Panamax vessels at the same time. SSA has an option to further expand to 120 acres as space becomes available.
Two weekly services currently call at SSA in Jacksonville: a 2M Alliance Trans-Pacific string and the Mediterranean Shipping Co. Bahamas Express, the port’s transshipment connection throughout the MSC network.
Funding for the terminal upgrade is coming from SSA ($109.7 million), JAXPORT ($109 million) and the US Department of Transportation ($20 million).
The terminal renovations are happening alongside a separate dredging project to deepen the Jacksonville shipping channel to 47 feet, also expected to be completed in 2023. JAXPORT officials hope the projects lure more post-Panamax ships similar to the two Zim Integrated Shipping vessels that called there this spring, one of which was 11,000 TEU and the other nearly 12,000 TEU.
The port authority believes the terminal upgrade and deeper harbor will translate into more business from Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Jacksonville-based ocean carrier Crowley Maritime in March unveiled two liquefied natural gas-powered vessels as part of its plans to increase volume with Puerto Rico, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, and Costa Rica. In addition to Central America and the Caribbean, the port believes organic growth will come from the west coast of South America.
A recent economic impact study found that cargo activity at Jacksonville’s seaport supports nearly $31.1 billion in annual economic output for the region and state, according to JAXPORT.