JaxPort recovering from COVID pandemic’s business hit

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – JaxPort is one of Northeast Florida’s biggest employers and moneymakers.

And despite a tumultuous and challenging year, leaders said Tuesday that they’re set up for great success.

Executives at the Jacksonville Port Authority gave an update on how the seaport is faring nearly a year into the pandemic at the Propeller Club’s annual “State of the Port.” Like most other events, it was virtual.

JaxPort leaders applauded their employees for pushing through the obstacles. The coronavirus pandemic limited cargo coming and going and grounded the cruise business.

In June, a cargo ship carrying used cars caught fire in the port, burning for days. Nine firefighters were injured.

Despite it all, cargo dipped by just 9% from fiscal year 2019.

“We continue to see container growth in Puerto Rico as well as rebound in the Asian market,” said JaxPort CEO Eric Green.

Green and other partners laid out their 5-year strategic plan.

The harbor deepening project at Blount Island is more than halfway finished. It’ll deepen the river channels from 40 to 47 feet, attracting bigger ships and more money. Despite an environmental lawsuit from the St. Johns Riverkeeper, it’s set to be completed three years early -- at the end of 2022. A federal judge ruled in JaxPort’s favor to continue the dredge.

The plan includes 10 overall goals, including:

  • Expand container business
  • Expand vehicle capacity and volume
  • Expand breakbulk business line
  • Acquire additional land in proximity to the port
  • Rebuild the cruise business line
  • Invest in technology to improve efficiency

JaxPort leaders are also trying to work with the city and state to bring more big business. Amazon and Wayfair have built distribution centers, which boost imports and exports. More deals like this, the CEO said, will not only bring more jobs to the centers, but also to the port.

“A lot of plans just go up on the shelf and are never executed—but that is not the case here. We are embracing this opportunity to take JAXPORT to the next level,” said Green. “This plan was developed with our customers in mind—ensuring we continue to meet their needs while maximizing the opportunities our deep water seaport creates for the people of Northeast Florida. We are very ambitious. We have a commercial team ready to take advantage of any and all opportunities.”

In the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2021, Jaxport reported a 5% rebound in the revenue they lost from the pandemic.

“In 2020, JAXPORT continued to hold the line – keeping cargo volumes and revenue steady,” said JaxPort Chairman Jamie Shelton. “It’s a testament to the strength and dedication of our entire port community—especially the men and women who have worked hard to ensure the goods we use every day continue to move through JAXPORT on their way to store shelves.”

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