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Military vehicle imports help JAXPORT combat COVID-19 storm

Fiscal-year volumes down just 5% despite weeks of coronavirus-caused shutdowns

Despite the economic blow delivered to global trade by the coronavirus pandemic, the Jacksonville Port Authority (JAXPORT) said it was able to maintain fairly steady container volumes.

JAXPORT said its total volumes were down just 5% during its recently ended fiscal year 2020, which included the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual shutdown of imports. The Jacksonville, Florida, port is the second busiest in the United States for vehicle processing. The pandemic basically brought auto imports to a halt. 

JAXPORT’s fiscal year runs Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. The port moved nearly 547,500 vehicles during the fiscal year, despite the impact of the pandemic on the auto industry during this calendar year.

“An increase in U.S. military vehicle movements at the port helped to offset the industry-wide decline in commercial shipments due to the temporary shutdown of auto manufacturing over the summer caused by the coronavirus,” JAXPORT explained in an announcement Monday.

JAXPORT CEO Eric Green had said during his State of the Port address in February that the gateway moved nearly 700,000 vehicles last year.

JAXPORT said Monday that the port moved 1.27 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in fiscal year 2020, a 5% decrease from a record-setting 2019.

It said that despite the major global supply and demand challenges due to COVID-19, JAXPORT’s revenue of more than $65.1 million was “down only 7% for the year, an impact buffered largely by the port’s diversification across multiple trade lanes and lines of business.”

More than 9.9 million tons of total cargo moved through JAXPORT during the fiscal year, down 9% from 2019, which was also a record year for general cargo volumes.

There were some gains in 2020. Liquid bulk cargoes, including caustic soda, molasses and corn syrup, were up 12% at nearly 425,800 tons, JAXPORT said. 

JAXPORT said major announcements during the fiscal year included:

• The federal project to deepen the Jacksonville shipping channel to 47 feet from its current 40 feet is fully funded through JAXPORT’s Blount Island Marine Terminal. The deepening project includes the expansion of a vessel-turning basin that will allow larger vessels to turn at Blount Island berths. The project is anticipated to be complete in 2022, three years ahead of its original schedule.

• JAXPORT and SSA Atlantic broke ground on phased yard improvements at the existing SSA Jacksonville Container Terminal at Blount Island that will enable the facility to handle up to 700,000 TEUs annually. Berth enhancements at the terminal are scheduled to be complete by the end of 2021 and will enable the facility to simultaneously accommodate two post-Panamax vessels.

• Volkswagen Group of America renewed its commitment to Jacksonville, keeping its import facility and Southeastern distribution center in the city for at least the next three years.

• The port made clean-fuel history by hosting the first LNG bunkering of a foreign-flagged vessel in the United States. The Swedish vessel, Fure Ven, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 99%.

In September, international rating agency Moody’s Investors Service affirmed JAXPORT’s A2 Stable credit rating. “The port’s diverse business mix has helped temper” the impacts from COVID-19, Moody’s said.

Fitch Ratings also affirmed its A Stable rating on the port’s outstanding revenue bonds earlier in the year.

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Click for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.