The Port of Jacksonville aims to increase the number of containers it handles by 25 percent by 2012, and challenge Miami as Florida’s top port, despite forecasts of a slowdown in international trade growth.
More customers will move their cargo through Jacksonville instead of other Southeast ports, such as Savannah, Ga., as Jacksonville gains new shipping services, thus creating more competitive prices. The port’s container handling is above pre-recession levels, largely because it added new shipping services during the international trade slump.
The port’s earlier expectation of increased Asian trade creating a $1.8 billion annual economic impact and more than 11,000 direct and indirect jobs has been pushed back at least two years by the recession, said Roy Schleicher, the authority’s chief commercial officer. TraPac Inc.’s terminal isn’t operating at full capacity and Hanjin Shipping Company Ltd.’s terminal is expected to open two years later than expected, in early 2014.
Railroad companies have fared well through the recession and trucking companies are righting themselves as demand meets capacity, leaving warehouse operators as the most vulnerable to the delayed trade projections.
Within two years, the Jacksonville port should be up to 1 million TEUs and competing with Miami as the state’s top container port.
There is also untapped potential in Europe. The Jacksonville operations of Bacardi USA, Premier Beverage and Southern Wine and Spirits, along with Mercedes Benz USA and BMW of North America LLC, import from Europe.
The port’s robust service to the Caribbean and Latin America can also be leveraged to enhance its ability to work as a hub for goods going to or coming from Europe and Asia. Schleicher remains confident that the port’s logistic advantages — proximity to major highways and rail lines — and its access to a growing Southeast market will allow it to tap the nation’s appetite for imports.