The many industries that make up the world of freight have undergone tremendous change over the past several decades. Each Friday FreightWaves will explore the archives of American Shipper’s nearly 70-year-old collection of shipping and maritime publications to showcase interesting freight stories of long ago.
The following are summarized excerpts from the first edition of the Jacksonville Seafarer magazine, published in January 1952. David A. Howard, the founder of Howard Publications Inc., launched the publication in Jacksonville, Florida. Howard later established the statewide maritime and trade publication Florida Journal of Commerce in 1969. He and his son, Hayes H. Howard, went on to expand it nationally in 1974, rebranding it as American Shipper. FreightWaves acquired American Shipper in July.
Jacksonville, Florida celebrates completion of St. Johns River cutoff channel
Construction of a new channel on the St. Johns River has finally reached completion. Seafarers have waited with much anticipation for the channel’s opening as it reportedly shaves two miles and 30 minutes off sailing time from harbor to the open sea.
Travel time, however, was not the only reason Jacksonville proceeded with the maritime project worth $6.5 million [approximately $63 million in 2020]. Those who’ve navigated the St. Johns River for decades have noted the hazardous bends of the river as causes of concern. The 34-foot-deep, 400-foot-minimum-width channel replaces an older, smaller channel creating a navigable four-mile straight cutoff between Dames Point and Fulton. An estimated 15.6 million cubic yards of marshlands and other low lands about 4 feet above sea level were removed in constructing the channel.
The Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Company began dredging operations in 1947, but the idea for a cutoff at Dames Point has circled the minds of Jacksonville mariners for over 100 years. The first major effort to expand Jacksonville’s waterways came in 1852, when city leader Abel Seymour Baldwin sought the help of Congress to scour the ocean bar and deepen the entrance to the St. Johns River. Baldwin was envious of the commercial growth sailing into neighboring ports such as Fernandina.
The Port of Jacksonville looks to benefit greatly from the channel’s completion. Not only are fully laden tankers already making one-stop calls at the oil terminals, ships no longer have to wait outside the bar for high tides on which they can ride upstream.
Florida citrus market sees growth in Europe
Orange growers in Florida are finding European markets to be quite profitable for the first time in several years. Two 16,500 box cargo vessels were shipped from Jacksonville to Antwerp during December. In contrast, only one shipment occurred during the entire 1950-51 season.
Produce shipped between Florida and Europe is stored in non-refrigerated but ventilated spaces. The entire shipping process is carefully coordinated and scheduled between growers, truckers, shipping agents, and ocean carriers.
The produce is booked by the Strachan Shipping Company for the Wilhelmsen/Swedish American Line which operates between the Gulf of Mexico and Europe. The company’s agents keep Florida’s citrus growers informed of ship movements to ensure the time between picking and ocean shipment is minimal. Trucks are then dispatched to numerous orange groves across the state to haul the produce to Commodores Point Terminal in Jacksonville. Cargo is allowed to remain on the dock 24-48 hours prior to loading.
D.A. Watts, manager of the Strachan office in Jacksonville, said the Wilhelmsen/Swedish American Line joint service ships will call regularly throughout the season, however, if Belgium’s demand for oranges remains constant, the service may expand to offer vessel shipments approximately bi-weekly.