Federal, state, and local leaders joined JAXPORT and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Jacksonville District in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the completion of the Jacksonville Harbor Deepening Project, May 23, 2022. Credit: JAXPORT

Deepened JAXPORT Ready to Take On Bigger Ships

Mike Schuler
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May 25, 2022

JAXPORT, aka the Port of Jacksonville, and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Jacksonville District held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday to mark the completion of the Jacksonville Harbor Deepening Project, which will allow bigger ships to call at the port’s Blount Island terminals.

The project deepened 11 miles of the federal shipping channel to JAXPORT’s Blount Island Marine Terminal—from the sea buoy to Blount Island—to a depth of 47 feet from its previous depth of 40 feet.

The deeper channel depth will allow larger ships to call Blount Island and existing ships calling Jacksonville to carry more cargo on board (47 feet allows for containerships of up to about 14,000 TEU). The project also included a new turning basin allowing larger vessels to turn around at Blount Island berths.

“Florida’s seaports are economic drivers for our state and serve as gateways to domestic and international markets,” said Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E.

In coordination with deepening, JAXPORT completed more than $100 million in berth enhancements this month to enable the SSA Jacksonville Container Terminal (JCT) at Blount Island to simultaneously accommodate two post-Panamax container ships. Early next year, terminal operator SSA Atlantic will welcome three new eco-friendly 100-gauge container cranes, bringing the JCT’s total to six.

Funding of $420 million was provided for the deepening project through a public-private partnership between the federal government, State of Florida, City of Jacksonville, JAXPORT, and SSA Atlantic. The completion of the project comes three years ahead of the original schedule.

Planning of the project actually dates back to 2005 when the initial feasibility study began. Construction started in February 2018.

“When JAXPORT began this deepening journey nearly two decades ago, the goal was to build the port of the future,” said JAXPORT Board Chair Wendy Hamilton. “With today’s completion of deepening through Blount Island—the future is here, and JAXPORT is equipped to meet the needs of the nation’s supply chain for generations to come.”

In addition to the deepening, berth improvements, and new cranes, more than $70 million in terminal enhancements—funded by SSA and a grant from the US Maritime Administration (MARAD)— are also underway to expand container capacity at the SSA JCT.

By spring of 2023, SSA is expected to complete the first three of seven construction phases, producing approximately 31 acres of newly paved and improved operating area. The total project of approximately 93 acres will be complete by the end of 2024, allowing the SSA JCT to accommodate 500,000 TEUs (containers) annually.

“Anchored by harbor deepening, well over half a billion dollars in infrastructure improvements have been recently completed or are currently underway to improve our container capabilities at Blount Island,” said JAXPORT CEO Eric Green. “With the support of our federal, state, and local partners, JAXPORT is open for business and ready to serve the needs of our customers while creating local jobs here in our community.”

JAXPORT is Florida’s largest container port and one of the nation’s top vehicle-handling ports, boasting two-way ship traffic, no berth or terminal congestion, and same-day access to 98 million consumers.

Last year, as the nation’s top container ports from the West to East Coast struggle with ship bottlenecks and congestion, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis used JAXPORT as a backdrop to make his pitch for more cargo, touting Florida’s seaports as being open and ready to meet holiday demand. During the same event, JAXPORT announced that the port will also be offering incentives to any company that chooses to bring its business there.

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