Jacksonville Harbor Deepening Project Completed via JAXPORT’s Blount Island Marine Terminal

Written by David C. Lester, Editor

JAXPORT officials celebrate the port deepening project.


[This week,] Federal, state and local leaders joined JAXPORT and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Jacksonville District in celebrating the completion of the Port of Jacksonville Deepening Project via JAXPORT’s Blount Island Marine Terminal.

The project deepened 11 miles of the federal shipping channel – from the marine buoy to Blount Island – to a depth of 47 feet from its previous depth of 40 feet.

The 47-foot harbor provides the channel depth needed for large vessels to call Blount Island to and from destinations around the world and allows existing vessels calling at Jacksonville to carry more cargo on board. In addition, the project includes a new turning basin allowing larger vessels to turn around at Blount Island berths.

JAXPORT is served by three railroads – CSX, Norfolk Southern and the Florida East Coast Railway, with a total of 40 trains per day.

“Florida’s seaports are economic engines for our state and serve as gateways to domestic and international markets,” Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E. of the FDOT, our seaports continue to grow and modernize to meet the needs of Florida’s growing economy and communities.The JAXPORT Port Deepening Project communicates to the world that Florida is open for business. and demonstrates Florida’s unwavering commitment to strengthening and growing supply chains while providing a safe, resilient, competitive, and vibrant multimodal transportation system.

“When JAXPORT began this journey of deepening nearly two decades ago, the goal was to build the port of the future,” said JAXPORT Board Chair Wendy Hamilton. “With the completion today of deepening across Blount Island, the future is here, and JAXPORT is equipped to meet the nation’s supply chain needs for generations to come.”

In coordination with the deepening, JAXPORT completed more than $100 million in dock improvements this month to enable the SSA Jacksonville Container Terminal (JCT) at Blount Island to simultaneously accommodate two post-shipment container ships. Panamax. In early 2023, terminal operator SSA Atlantic will welcome three new eco-friendly 100 gauge container cranes, bringing the JCT total to six.

“Anchored by Port Deepening, more than half a billion dollars in infrastructure improvements have recently been completed or are currently underway to improve our container capabilities at Blount Island,” said Eric Green, CEO of JAXPORT. “With the support of our federal, state and local partners, JAXPORT is open for business and ready to meet the needs of our customers while creating local jobs here in our community.”

The deepening through Blount Island was completed three years ahead of the original project schedule. Total funding to date is $420 million funded through a public-private partnership between the Federal Government, State of Florida, City of Jacksonville, JAXPORT and SSA Atlantic.

“This really is a great public-private partnership,” Congressman John Rutherford said at the event. “The potential is amazing, but what I love the most is that while we’re here for the grand opening, the board and Eric are already discussing how we’re going to make port operations even better. It’s not the end of anything, it really is the beginning.”

“This project strengthens Northeast Florida as a premier destination for commerce and shipping around the world, with the ability to accommodate larger vessels,” said Congresswoman Kat Cammack. “Florida, with its 14 ports around the state, continues to lead the way in shipping and I am grateful for the hard work and investment in this project, which will only create more opportunities to strengthen our supply chain and making the Sunshine State a gateway of choice to domestic and international destinations.

The Jacksonville Port Deepening Project creates or protects 15,000 jobs throughout the supply chain, including trucking, warehousing and distribution. The initial feasibility study for the project began in 2005 and construction began in February 2018.

“As with all Corps projects, this mammoth civil engineering effort has been undertaken to modernize the nation’s waterways and ports, strengthen supply chains and promote economic growth while protecting the environment,” said USACE Jacksonville District Commander Col. James Booth. “Through this team effort, we anticipate the Port of Jacksonville will grow and prosper as the preferred destination and jumping off point for the largest and most profitable commercial fleets in the mid-21st century.”

“Jacksonville’s economy and livelihood have always centered around the St. Johns River. JAXPORT has been a key driver of economic growth and investment in our city,” said Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. “Completing this stage of a decades-long port deepening project required the collaboration and effort of public, private and non-profit spheres. It is no small feat and will launch the next phase of growth in our labor market and investment from regional, national and global players.

In addition to deepening, improved berths and new cranes, more than $70 million in terminal upgrades – funded by SSA and a grant from the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) – are also underway to increase container capacity at the SSA JCT. By spring 2023, SSA will complete the first three of seven phases of construction, producing approximately 31 acres of newly paved and improved operating area. The total project of approximately 93 acres will be completed by the end of 2024, enabling the SSA JCT to accommodate 500,000 TEUs (containers) per year.

“SSA would like to thank JAXPORT, the Army Corps of Engineers, and all of our state and local officials for their commitment to this historic event,” said SSA Vice President for Florida Operations Frank McBride. “Forty-seven feet of water positions Jacksonville among the deepest ports on the East Coast, further enhancing the SSA JCT’s capabilities as an international cargo gateway.”

The Jacksonville Harbor Deepening Project is a federally authorized 13-mile project. The current funding model covered the completion of the first 11 miles. The last two miles are authorized and under review.

JAXPORT is Florida’s largest container port and one of the nation’s top vehicle handling ports. Jacksonville offers two-way marine traffic, without berth or terminal congestion, and same-day access to 98 million consumers. Freight activity through the Jacksonville Seaport supports 138,000 jobs in Florida and $31 billion in annual economic impact for the region and the state. The Port continues to make infrastructure improvements in support of JAXPORT’s mission to create jobs and economic opportunity for the citizens of Northeast Florida.

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