MIAMI—The Port of Jacksonville ranks 15th in North America. That’s according to a recent CBRE report that measures the port’s infrastructure capabilities against the strength of the city’s industrial market. In other news, Fitch Ratings recently affirmed its A rating on the Jacksonville Port Authority, Florida’s bonds. The rating outlook is stable.
Beyond these kudos, though, what is going on at JaxPort? After losing a big deal in 2013, how is the Port Authority moving to rebound?
GlobeSt.com caught up with Monte Merritt, senior director with Franklin Street’s Jacksonville office, He focuses on landlord and tenant representation in the office and industrial sectors and has completed over 4 million square feet in transactions throughout the North Florida area in the past 20 years.
GlobeSt.com: What is happening to the Port of Jacksonville?
Merritt: After much debate regarding deepening an 11-mile stretch of the St. Johns River that leads to Jacksonville Port Authority’s (JAXPORT’s) Talleyrand Marine Terminal, last year President Obama signed a $12.3 billion waterways and ports infrastructure bill, which included authorization to deepen the port. Although the city received the green light to move forward, the city’s leaders are still unsure about the funding for the project.
From a dollar standpoint, though, it is necessary for the port to complete this dredging in order to compete with other east shore competitors. Currently at 40 feet, increasing the depth to 47 feet will allow larger vessels to enter. At its current depth, container ships can only be partially loaded and can only enter or exit the port during high tide, causing scheduling limitations and increased cargo costs.
GlobeSt.com: How important is the dredging for Jacksonville’s economy and CRE markets?
Merritt: South Korea’s largest shipping company, Hanjin Shipping Co., had been in talks with the port since 2004 to build a $300 million shipping terminal, but canceled the deal in 2013 when it was determined that the port was not deep enough. News of the dredging project could possibly reengage the discussion.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott is also traveling to California in April to try and persuade shipping companies to use Florida ports for their cargo, due to a nine-month West Coast slowdown. Having the deepened port would undoubtedly open up Jacksonville to larger and more profitable shipping opportunities.