JaxPort, major tenant partner on $238.7 million expansion

Deal pledges $28 million to St. Johns River dredging project

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A $129.7 million investment by SSA Marine in JaxPort's Blount Island terminal includes $28 million to fund the ongoing harbor dredging project, port and city officials announced Monday.

The agreement calls for JaxPort to spend $109 million to rebuild and enhance berths to simultaneously accommodate two of the larger-capacity ships that the dredging project will accommodate.

Together, the $238.7 million will result in 30 additional acres for SAA at Blount Island with the ability to add 60 more acres and allow the terminal to handle the new generation of massive international cargo vessels.

"It’s a great day. It’s a historic day. It’s actually a game changer for the Jacksonville Port Authority," JaxPort CEO Eric Green said. "We're in the top 15 ports in the country."

Seattle-based SSA Jacksonville, which has had facilities at JaxPort since the early 1970s, has committed to building an international gateway terminal. Since 2015, they have increased volume at JaxPort by 150 percent.

The SSA investment includes the addition of three 100-gauge container cranes.

According to JaxPort officials, there is a minimum guarantee of $158 million throughout the 25-year contract, which begins in August. There are two 25-year renewal options in the deal.

"We wouldn’t be in this port if we didn’t believe we didn’t have the long-term beliefs that JAX’s day is coming forward," SSA Marine President Mark Knudsen said.

Green said JaxPort approached both SSA and its other international operator, TraPac, about partnering on this expansion.

"Both were very interested. SSA won out," Green said. "TraPac decided they had just consolidated and merged into the one, instead of them making the sole decision themselves. There were two other companies involved in that and, at this particular time, it was best they take a pass at negotiations," Green said.

TraPac's president, Stephen Edwards, released a statement saying, in part:

TraPac Jacksonville continues to express its support for the harbor deepening and is looking forward to its own continued strong working relationship that TraPac Jacksonville has established with JaxPort since 2005.”

The facility will offer a vessel turning basin and deep-water access upon completion of deepening 11 miles of the St. Johns River to 47 feet to accommodate the new, larger container ships that can now transit the Panama Canal. JaxPort said the Harbor Deepening Project is two years ahead of schedule and could be completed in 2023. 

"This is more than Duval County. It’s the region. It’s really the Southeast. We are talking about 3,000 jobs alone … that you will see from this project," Green said. "As I said, all of you have seen our growth trajectory over the last year or so and it just speaks volumes as to what this port can be."

The dredging project, which is not yet fully funded, is subject to a federal legal challenge from the St. Johns Riverkeeper, which believes that the Army Corps' study on deepening the St. Johns River did not adequately address how it could impact flooding in Jacksonville during major storms.

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