Infrastructure investment at Florida's deep-water seaports : does investment meet the needs of improved trade and container traffic?




Owen, Christopher Lee

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Continuous improvements are an important element of port operations, especially for Florida’s three largest container ports along the Atlantic which handle 90% of all container trade in the state. They are expanding capabilities to handle larger containerships with higher cargo loads as well as improve landside connection to distribution networks. PortMiami, Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) and JAXPort (Jacksonville) are in a race to capture more market share from containerized trade, predominantly with Asia. The bulk of that trade will continue to flow to West Coast ports because they are the most direct even though the majority of the U.S. population lives east of the Mississippi. Ports on the East Coast are engaged in growing as viable alternatives for carriers that want to avoid congestion issues on West Coast trade lanes. The capital investments in port improvement projects in Florida represent a fraction of the billions being spent at ports across the world, each trying to advance their standing in supply chains and be utilized more by carriers. The shipping industry is closely aligning how fast and at what cost cargo can be delivered with other supply chain strategies to improve reliability. Almost every major port in the U.S. is increasing capacity for larger ships to dock and concentrating development on improving the speed and efficiency of cargo handling including rail/truck links to transportation networks. Ports in Florida have the added complexity of competing not only with out-of-state ports, but against each other in-state.

This paper examines the factors behind why ports need to invest in increasing capacity. It focuses on 1) existing and planned improvements at PortMiami, Port Everglades and JAXPort to handle larger ships and increased cargo loads; 2) highlighting each port’s standing in current supply chains and the challenges each face; and 3) ascertaining whether each port can grow physically to meet expanded levels of trade. I conclude the professional report with a recommendation that only one port in the state, JAXPort, is positioned with the best chance to capture market share from competing ports and become a more dominate regional player in container trade.


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