Florida Gov. Rick Scott believes the Sunshine State is on its way to becoming the top shipping state in the nation, and he’s backing that notion with hundreds of millions of dollars.
Scott’s latest announcement of planned port funding came Oct. 16 as he addressed the 102nd annual convention of the American Association of Port Authorities at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes Convention Center in Orlando.
“We will be the No. 1 shipping state in the country,” Scott said. “For every dollar we invest in ports, we get nice-paying jobs.”
The governor noted that the state has invested $640 million in Florida’s 15 deepwater ports since 2011, with, most recently, a $150 million investment from bond proceeds announced Sept. 24 to be allocated toward 16 port projects.
Then he announced that he plans to recommend to the Florida Legislature when it reconvenes in March that another $35 million in state funding be directed to critical port projects, with Port Everglades targeted for $14.7 million for its berth expansion project, the Port of Tampa for $10.4 million for container yard improvements, and Port Canaveral for $9.7 million for container yard development.
Citing the economic need for Florida to do more manufacturing, Scott said, “If you want more manufacturing jobs, you should put more money into ports.
“While the federal government doesn’t do their job, if we do our job, we’ll get jobs,” Scott said, specifically noting the lack of federal support yet state backing for PortMiami projects that are anticipated to result in generation of 33,000 jobs.
Bill Johnson, PortMiami’s director, exulted, “Gov. Scott gets it,” and, in his role as chairman of the Florida Ports Council, presented the governor with the council’s Economic Visionary Award.
The need for investment in ports was a recurring theme at the AAPA convention, which extended from Oct. 13-17, with Port Canaveral serving as host.
Port industry economist Dr. John C. Martin, president of Lancaster, Pa.-based Martin Associates, said $64 billion will have to be invested in U.S. port infrastructure, including in automation and other terminal productivity enhancements, over the next five years in order for the nation’s ports to handle increased volumes and larger ships that are on the horizon in part because of the Panama Canal expansion, which is slated for 2015 completion. “We’re not ready on the East Coast and the Gulf Coast to handle the bigger ships that are coming,” Martin said.
Financial adviser David Levy, managing director of New York-based Goldman Sachs & Co., pointed out the crucial role that private funding must play in port infrastructure funding, commenting, “I think there is plenty of capital available if you can present the right economic paradigm.”
Bruce E. Cashon, senior VP and chief operating officer of East Brunswick, N.J.-based Ceres Terminal Inc., said who invests in port infrastructure is one of three key factors impacting container and nonbulk cargo trade, the other two being deployment and capacity of vessels and development of infrastructure that supports ports, such as highways, bridges and tunnels, all of which, he said, are seriously underfunded.
Cashon pointed out that market conditions remain challenging, with “too much capacity chasing too little cargo,” continuing weak U.S. consumer demand, and downward pressure on terminal operating and stevedoring rates due to growing ocean carrier alliance alignments.
To survive evolving demands, according to Cashon, terminal operating companies will focus all the more on throughput costs and handling cargo efficiently; will be less likely to engage in proprietary container terminal operations for an individual shipping line; will undergo more consolidation; will form more asset-efficient sharing of operations and equipment; will push to automation sooner where possible; will enter into more joint ventures with carriers; and will implement new billing approaches.
The convention also provided a forum for the signing of a memorandum of understanding between AAPA and Green Marine Management Corp., a Quebec-based not-for-profit organization offering voluntary sustainability programs for the marine transportation industry. The agreement calls for a productive working relationship in support of mutual goals to advance environmental protection at Western Hemisphere seaports.