Business

Port Backers: Rick Scott's Call to Bolster Canaveral Builds Opportunities Statewide

By: Jim Turner | Posted: August 10, 2012 3:55 AM
Port Canaveral

Port Canaveral

A bulk of cash infused by Gov. Rick Scott into Port Canaveral’s channel will further boost the enticement of shipping goods to Florida, backers of the state’s seaport contend.

Scott, who has become a champion of the state’s seaports as a mean to attract more global trade, announced he was directing $24.4 million into the deepening and widening of the shipping channel along the Space Coast.

The money, if approved by the state Legislature next spring, is expected to advance the work from 2017 to 2014, allowing larger cargo and cruise ships into the port.

“With cruise and cargo ships growing larger, Governor Scott’s decision to expedite this project will put Port Canaveral more quickly in a position to capitalize on cargo and cruise business opportunities,” Doug Wheeler, president of Florida Ports Council, replied in an email.

“In addition, this investment will help Port Canaveral retain high-wage jobs and will bring much-needed new jobs to this critical region."

The Tallahassee-based council had included speeding the Canaveral work among a priority list for the Legislature this past session.

Rep. Lake Ray, R-Jacksonville, one of the leading port proponents in the Legislature, said the governor’s action helps makes the states seaports more competitive as overseas trade increases, with the focus often given to the completion of the Panama Canal expansion now set for 2015.

“When you wrap the cruise opportunities along with the cargo opportunities it spells nothing but increased opportunities for the region, but more importantly for the state,” Ray said.

A Florida Chamber Foundation study released in 2010 stated that 50 percent of the goods consumed by Floridians imported through a U.S. port must be transported by truck or train into Florida, with Port of Savannah and Port of Charleston among Florida’s biggest competitors.

Ray said that is starting to change as indicated with a decision by Walt Disney Co. in June to shift the bulk of its ship unloading to JaxPort in Jacksonville from the Port of Savannah, from where many of the China-made mouse ears and princess gowns were then trucked to Central Florida.

“You start adding all these pieces together, eventually it starts working toward giving us a lot of opportunity as a state, which according to the (chamber) study can represent about 150,000 jobs we can capture,” Ray said.

Scott has been out in front in pushing for Florida to attract more maritime trade.

In February, Scott floated $22.5 million in transportation funding to pump up the petroleum capacity at the Port of Tampa.  

Last year, Scott shipped $77 million from the state DOT into the Port of Miami to dredge the channel from its current 42 feet to 50-to-52 feet so it could handle the large Panamax vessels that will flow with more cargo through an expanded Panama Canal starting in 2014.

Known primarily for its cruise ships, Port Canaveral has been concentrating its growing commercial focus on “robust” trade already coming from Central and South America.

The goal is to deepen the 3 ½-mile manmade channel -- chiseled to its current size to bring in rockets for Cape Canaveral -- from its current 400 feet width to 500 feet wide, while bringing the depth of the entire channel to 44 feet. Currently parts are at 39 feet, while others bottom at 44 feet.

“By widening and deepening the channel, Port Canaveral will be better suited to support cruise and cargo growth,” FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad stated in a release.

The DOT has estimated that every dollar invested in the seaports yields, on average, $7 to the state’s economy. However, because of the cruise lines at Port Canaveral, a more navigable channel would be expected to put the match at $11 for every $1 invested.

Located at the eastern end of the Beachline Expressway, a straight line from Orlando and north of Cocoa Beach, the port handles an average of 2.8 million passengers and nearly 3 million tons of cargo a year.

The money, from the state Department of Transportation, will be combined with $32.5 million in state grants and $8.1 million from Port Canaveral. Advancing the work is projected to save $12 million, the governor’s office estimated.

“Port Canaveral is a key component to the region’s long-term vitality and a driving economic force of the Space Coast, as well as Central Florida’s hub to the world, and this port and this region cannot wait several more years for this crucial project to be complete,” Scott stated in a release.

“Florida will step up to help create construction jobs in the near future and lasting permanent jobs, rather than take a chance on getting the federal government’s help.”

The port authority already estimates it is responsible for more than 13,093 jobs and calculates that the port’s expansion will support 3,494 permanent jobs, plus 3,413 construction jobs, through this project and associated projects, such as the port’s new cruise terminal and new cargo piers.

From the governor’s office: Governor Scott’s Vision for Florida’s Seaports

“Florida is uniquely positioned to lead the nation in the volume and value of trade entering our ports. In preparation of the completed expansion of the Panama Canal in 2014, Florida’s investment in expanding and modernizing its seaports has grown approximately 278 percent, up from $148.8 million in 2011, to $562.7 million in 2013 under Governor Scott’s leadership.

“In 2011, Governor Scott put forward an important funding plan to widen and deepen the Port of Miami to allow the state to capitalize on the larger Post Panamax ships that will bring cargo to and from the United States. This important project is projected to add 30,000 Florida jobs in the coming years while allowing our state to outcompete other states for the Post Panamax shipping.”



Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.



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