What supply chain crisis? Jacksonville port is open for business as congestion plagues West Coast ports

Business has been brisk and largely problem-free this year at the Port of Jacksonville, says Alberto Cabrera, the port’s director of cruise and cargo development. “[We] can handle a lot more capacity,” he says. “We have a lot of growth opportunities.” Jacksonville Port Authority

Container ships have been stuck on the West Coast for weeks due to backlogs in receiving yards. While the congestion is easing at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, supply chain disruption-related delays continue. 

Meanwhile, business has been brisk and largely problem-free this year at the Port of Jacksonville (JAXPORT), says Alberto Cabrera, the port’s director of cruise and cargo development. Florida’s number-one container port as measured by volume, JAXPORT has room to expand, Cabrera says. 

“[We] can handle a lot more capacity,” he says. “We have a lot of growth opportunities.”  

During the supply chain crisis, JAXPORT has gained some new business, such as ocean carrier Hapag-Lloyd temporarily rerouting its European container service; the first ship arrived in November. The service call will last through January 2022 and bring an additional 1,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) to JAXPORT, according to a press release. 

On Dec. 15, electric vehicle manufacturer Cenntro Automotive announced it would build its first U.S.-based manufacturing plant in Jacksonville and use JAXPORT to import materials for the production of vehicles, and export some of the finished vehicles to partners and clients in more than 30 countries. 

JAXPORT officials also hope to boost the port’s rail and box-car capacity, as well as provide additional container services to increase automotive shipments by rail. Jacksonville Port Terminal Railroad is within feet of the water, and the terminal railroad connects to CSX, Norfolk Southern Railway and Florida East Coast Railway, Carbrera says. 

The JAXPORT board recently awarded a $48.8 million contract to Superior Construction Company LLC for improvements to SSA Jacksonville Container Terminal on Blount Island, which will increase capacity by 93 acres. Terminal upgrades include densified pavement to accommodate taller stacks of containers, and new facility gates and entryways to boost traffic flow. Upon completion in 2024, the project will enable the SSA facility to accommodate up to 500,000 TEUs annually, a 150% increase over its current throughput — putting JAXPORT’s total TEU throughput to nearly 2 million units a year, an increase of more than 40%. 

Other capacity-increasing projects include a federally funded project to deepen the port shipping channel to 47 feet, which will enable larger ships to reach the port. More than $100 million in berth enhancements and $70 million in phased container yard improvements are also in the works. 

"We have a 550,000-square-foot warehouse that is used to bring in imported paper from Finland, rolls of paper, and they use the box-car loading capabilities there. So, they run a lot of box-car volume out of Talleyrand [Marine Terminal] as well,” Cabrera says, adding that Toyota vehicles are also processed at the warehouse. Jacksonville Port Terminal Railroad runs Talleyrand’s on-dock rail facilities. 

Cabrera claimed that JAXPORT’s Dames Point intermodal container transfer facility has seen a significant uptick in activity in recent months, Carbrera says. For the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, the port set a new annual container volume record of 1.4 million TEUs, up 10% from 2020’s total.  

JAXPORT plans to continue letting potential clients know the port can handle more capacity — “no lines, no waits,” as Cabrera puts it. In particular, the port is looking to attract more long-haul shippers since many existing customers tend to ship regionally to Orlando or Atlanta. JAXPORT can help them connect beyond the Southeast. For example, CSX offers two-day service from Jacksonville to Chicago. 

“There's a certain reason why certain vessels go to certain ports,” Cabrera says. “But when you come into a situation where it's gridlocked, then you have to find other solutions, and we are part of that solution.”