JAXPORT hailed this week’s announcement that the federal government had allocated $93 million for the next phase of deepening the Jacksonville, Florida, shipping channel to 47 feet from its current depth of 40 feet as “a milestone for the project and a major victory.”
The federal government now has fully funded its portion of the deepening project, according to the announcement, which called the allocation the “largest single investment of federal funding in JAXPORT history.”
Of the total $93 million investment, more than $57.5 million is included in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ fiscal year 2020 work plan. The remaining more than $35.4 million is allocated in the president’s 2021 fiscal year budget.
“This is the first time JAXPORT has ever received funding in the president’s budget, which speaks volumes about the significance of this project to the Southeast U.S. and the nation,” said JAXPORT CEO Eric Green.
Upon completion of the deepening project, the SSA Jacksonville Container Terminal at Blount Island will feature a vessel turning basin and have the ability to simultaneously accommodate two post-Panamax vessels. In November, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded JAXPORT a $20 million grant to enable the facility to accommodate more containers on an expanded footprint.
To date, the federal government, the state of Florida, JAXPORT and port tenant SSA Jacksonville have contributed or pledged more than $394 million toward the $484 million deepening project. According to JAXPORT, it’s the first project of its kind to include funding from a private business.
Army Corps of Engineers contractors are scheduled to complete the first five and a half miles of the deepening project this spring. Harbor deepening began in February 2018 and is anticipated to be complete in 2023, two years ahead of its original schedule, based on continued funding from all partners, JAXPORT said.
The 47-foot depth is required to accommodate more cargo aboard the larger ships calling on JAXPORT from destinations throughout Asia and other global markets through both the Panama and Suez canals. JAXPORT said Asian container trade is an important part of its container cargo business, up 55% in the last five years.
JAXPORT is Florida’s largest container port and the nation’s second-busiest vehicle-handling port. An economic impact study reportedly found that the harbor-deepening project will create or protect 15,000 jobs and return $24 for every $1 invested in the project.