Jacksonville Port Authority CEO Rick Ferrin doesn’t see any other option than the port getting post-Panamax access. With the access, the port will be on track to become the third-largest East Coast port.
Mitsui O.S.K Lines Ltd. didn’t build a $230 million terminal because it thought Jacksonville might be able to handle the ships capable of carrying up to 13,000 TEUs, or twenty-foot container units, he said. Nor did Hanjin Shipping Co. Ltd. make plans to build a $208 million terminal because it expected anything less than post-Panamax access.
“I don’t think we have anything to worry about in terms of getting the project authorized,” Ferrin said. “We sat down with the Corps six years ago and did a preliminary cost-benefit analysis, and even at first look, it was good.”
The only part of the process that the port could be hung up on is paying for the project, he said. That’s why the authority and its legislative partners continue “to hammer home the message” of the port’s importance, Ferrin said.
When both Asian terminals are online in 2014, the port’s annual container-handling capacity will grow to up to 1.8 million TEUs. Mitsui’s terminal, which is run by its subsidiary TraPac Inc., is expected to create up to 5,600 jobs directly or indirectly when it’s running at full capacity, according to a study by John C. Martin & Associates LLC, a maritime consulting group.
The terminal is also estimated to have an up to $870 million annual impact once trade recovers. The Hanjin terminal is expected to create the same number of jobs and have an annual $1 billion impact on the area.
However, David Jaffee, a University of North Florida professor who studies port labor issues, said only 14 percent of the estimated jobs created are directly dependent on the port, with the rest are related to port growth. Still, whatever the breakdown in types of job creation, logistics leaders expect ramifications to be enormous and stretch beyond Jacksonville.
Increased cargo through the port will mean more business for trucking companies needed to bring containers to nearby warehouses or straight to an out-of-area destination. To handle the expected 6,000 to 7,000 trucks coming to the terminals daily, the surrounding roads and rail lines need to be improved.
The increased need for storage will be a boon to the industrial market, which had a 10 percent vacancy rate, according CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. Jobs will be added through those two sectors and the third-party logistics industry, which manages the movement of goods and materials from their origin to destination.
The port’s growth will provide the region’s manufacturing sector new outlets to export its goods and attract new manufacturers, said Lad Daniels, executive director of the First Coast Manufacturers Association. That’s part of the reason Hillwood Investment Properties is developing Cecil Commerce Center on the Westside.
Although Savannah, Ga., has a more robust port and intermodal connections at the terminal, Jacksonville has better access to the Southeast market, making it attractive to distribution companies and manufacturers, said T. Preston Herold, the Dallas-based developer’s vice president.
The benefit of the port’s growth is expected to reach beyond city limits. Neighboring counties such as Nassau, Baker and St. Johns, are planning inland ports, or large tracts of land far from water with major highways and rail line access for manufacturing and logistics tenants. A 2,500-acre inland port as far away as east of Lake City on U.S. 90. is in the works.
With all these benefits in the region’s sight, the authority doesn’t believe its state and national legislative representatives will let the opportunity slip away.
Failing to get post-Panamax access is “like driving a Ferrari in a 25-mph speed zone,” said Roy Schleicher, the authority’s chief commercial officer. “If you have a superstar port, which we think we’re growing into, you can’t limit yourself.”