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Vehicle handling steers JAXPORT to cargo gain

Container volume also up at Jacksonville, Florida, port

JAXPORT said it moved more than 353,400 TEUs during its fiscal first quarter. (Photo: JAXPORT)

The Jacksonville Port Authority (JAXPORT) provided evidence the global automobile manufacturing industry is recovering from the economic crash it suffered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, reporting its vehicle volumes grew 7% year-over-year in its first fiscal quarter.

The 185,513 vehicles moved between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 marked the second-busiest quarter for the automotive sector in the Jacksonville, Florida, port’s history.

JAXPORT’s fiscal year began Oct. 1. The strong demand for vehicles as well as consumer goods contributed to a solid first quarter, the port reported Thursday. 

Through Dec. 31, container volumes were up 5% over the previous fiscal year. The port said it had handled nearly 353,400 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) to that point in the fiscal year, making it one of the busiest first quarters for container volumes. 

“We strive to be a resource for shippers as they adapt to supply chain challenges related to the pandemic,” JAXPORT CEO Eric Green said in a statement. “As consumer trends continue to shift and e-commerce grows, efficiency becomes increasingly important. 

“The investments we are making in our facilities ensure we can maximize all of the efficiencies Jacksonville offers, including our fast access to the growing Southeast consumer market,” Green said. 

Contractors for the Army Corps of Engineers continue making progress on the federal project to deepen the Jacksonville shipping channel to 47 feet from its current depth of 40 feet. Deepening through Blount Island is expected to be completed in 2022, three years ahead of the original schedule, the port said. 

The deepening project includes construction of a new vessel turning basin to allow larger ships to turn at Blount Island berths, JAXPORT said, adding that more than $100 million in berth enhancements to allow Blount Island to simultaneously accommodate two post-Panamax ships will be completed about the same time as the deepening work.  

Green will discuss the deepening project and unveil a strategic master plan during his 2021 State of the Port address Feb. 23.

In a cargo blog post earlier this month, Whitney Croxton, JAXPORT’s senior marketing coordinator, explained how SSA Atlantic’s peel-off strategy is helping shippers gain efficiencies and find cost savings during the import surge. 

Already in place for several shippers at SSA’s Blount Island Marine Terminal, the peel-off strategy sorts the customer’s cargo into a designated space in the yard as it comes off the vessel. Croxton wrote that the benefits include higher velocity of cargo through the port, reduced turn times for truck drivers, and elimination or reduction of detention and demurrage fees. 

Vivian Patterson, a terminal supervisor at SSA Atlantic, told Croxton that her team stacks containers strategically. 

“To provide real value, we must understand the needs of the customer and then discuss how the flexibility of this process can benefit them the most,” Patterson told Croxton. “We can help manage the manner in which the import loads are stacked on the terminal in a way that supports the company’s inventory management goals.”

Croxton said another key component in the strategy is Jacksonville’s trucking community. “This segment of the industry has direct insight into how the shipper prioritizes cargo and arranges appointment schedules,” she wrote, quoting Patterson as saying, “Working as a team — SSA with our ocean carrier and trucking partners — the flow of import cargo through JAXPORT has no limits.” 

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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.