JAXPORT expansion gets federal funding boost

JAXPORT expansion gets federal funding boost

Jacksonville's SSA terminal in Blount Island is being expanded 80 acres, getting berth upgrades, and will benefit from a deeper harbor in 2023. Photo credit: JAXPORT.

The US Department of Transportation has awarded $20 million toward the renovation of the Blount Island Terminal in Jacksonville, Florida, which will expand the SSA Marine facility to nearly 1.5 million TEU in annual handling capacity.

Together with a project to deepen the harbor to 47 feet, the Jacksonville Port Authority hopes to lure more post-Panamax vessels similar to two ZIM Integrated Shipping vessels that called there this spring, one of which was 11,000 TEU and the other nearly 12,000 TEU.

Blount Island Terminal. Photo credit: Ari Ashe.

The federal funds are a small portion of the $238 million cost of expanding the Blount Island Terminal by another 80 acres to handle an additional 425,000 TEU per year. SSA will pay for more than 65 percent of the upgrades, which include better storm drainage, enhanced lighting, better signage, and three new container cranes. The $20 million was awarded by the federal government through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grant program.

“The award of this highly competitive grant speaks volumes about the significance of this project to the economy of our region and country,” said JAXPORT CEO Eric Green. “We are grateful to Secretary Elaine Chao and our state and federal elected officials who continue to advocate for our growth, further positioning Northeast Florida to take full advantage of the economic opportunities our thriving seaport creates.”

Meanwhile, a separate $484 million dredging project to support post-Panamax vessels without tidal restrictions will support the terminal upgrades. The dredging includes $100 million in federal funding, $167.3 million from the state of Florida, and $57.7 million in port authority funds. In a third project, $109 million is being spent on berth rehabilitation that will allow two post-Panamax vessels to be handled simultaneously.

The port authority believes the projects, once complete, 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 ambitious 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.

Contact Ari Ashe at ari.ashe@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @arijashe.