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Rail News: Intermodal

Two Florida ports advance growth plans to prepare for Panama Canal expansion


Florida Gov. Rick Scott has directed the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to begin the process of investing $24.4 million in matching funds to help Port Canaveral widen and deepen its channel.

The state funds will enable the port to advance the project from its previous 2017 start date. By using only state and local dollars, the port estimates it will save $12 million on total project costs through streamlined study requirements.

The project is critical for handling cruise ships and competing for larger bulk cargo ships in the future, port officials said in a prepared statement. By widening the turning basin and deepening the channel, the port will be able to handle larger shipments, thereby lowering transportation costs for such bulk cargo as jet fuel, slag cement and aggregates, they said.

Florida is uniquely positioned to lead the nation in the volume and value of trade entering the state’s ports, Scott said. In preparation of the Panama Canal expansion to be completed in 2014, Florida’s investment in expanding and modernizing its seaports has grown about 278 percent, from $148.8 million in 2011 to $562.7 million in 2013, he said.

The funding will enable the Port of Miami to widen and deepen its channel to capitalize on the larger post Panamax ships that will bring cargo to and from the United States, said Scott.

As part of its own preparations to handle more cargo after the Panama Canal is expanded, the Port of Miami is advancing its plan to create a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ). The port recently announced the U.S. Department of Commerce has accepted its application for a FTZ, which would enhance its status as an international trade and commerce center and make it easier for individual companies to create duty-free warehouses.

FTZ designations allow exporters to ship goods without paying U.S. import taxes, provided the items are heading from one foreign country to another. The zones benefit companies because cargo that enters the United States is subject to import tariffs, and by creating more duty-free zones, cargo companies can operate in the Miami-Dade County area and use the port’s facilities, port officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/10/2012