The upshot of a newly released $600,000 strategic plan for the Jacksonville Port Authority should sound familiar by now: Deepening the shipping channel to 47 feet is a critical goal for officials hoping to keep the port a competitive player.
While the fate of that expensive project is now in the hands of Congress, JaxPort CEO Brian Taylor said his team has made progress on other aspects of the state-funded strategic plan.
“You need to have a road map,” he said. “And we are actually taking action on that plan.”
The report, prepared by Pennsylvania consulting firm Martin Associates, outlined four goals crucial for the future of JaxPort:
■ Delivering a 47-foot shipping channel.
■ Developing near- and long-term plans that are operationally and financially compatible.
■ Preserving the port’s business diversity.
■ Achieving annual profit growth.
During a news conference Wednesday rolling out the study, Taylor, Mayor Alvin Brown and other officials argued JaxPort is already well on its way to meeting the plan’s ambitions.
For example, the JaxPort board last week awarded a $23.5 million construction contract for a railroad yard next to the Dames Point Marine Terminal where cargo containers will be transferred between ships and freight trains. The yard, known as an “intermodal container transfer facility,” will give the port faster access to markets since cargo containers would no longer have to be trucked dozens of miles away to and from CSX or Norfolk Southern’s facilities on the Westside.
The yard is expected to be complete by the end of 2015.
And the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization is expected to complete a study in February outlining two possible alignments for a new freight train line through the Northside, with the goal of making it possible for trains to move cargo faster from the Blount Island and Dames Point terminals to the other side of Jacksonville.
The strategic plan also says the port should become an industry leader in liquefied-natural-gas operations.
On that front, a company co-founded by T. Boone Pickens, as well as JEA in partnership with a California energy company, have announced interest in constructing an LNG processing and fueling terminal for port tenants. Two of those tenants have ordered ships that would be powered by liquefied natural gas. Sea Star Line expects two LNG-powered cargo ships to be delivered in 2015, and Crowley Maritime Corp. expects two more vessels to be ready in 2017.
Other actions recommended in the report include increasing market share in the Caribbean and Latin America, targeting retail and refrigerated distribution, and finalizing plans for port-owned waterfront land in Mayport that “creates economic value and is consistent with community goals.”
To see the entire report, visit www.jaxport.com.
Nate Monroe: (904) 359-4289