This paper critically analyses the proposal to expand the Jacksonville Port, the benefits and challenges thereto, and makes relevant recommendations that would go a long way in enhancing the successful implementation and complementation of the proposed project. Key word: Jacksonville Port project.
There have been frantic calls to deepen the Jacksonville Port in the State of Florida; U.S. one outstanding proponent of this project has been Florida Governor Rick Scott. The proponents of the project opine that the project presents a classical opportunity for the state to improve its economic base as well as logistics regarding the movement of cargo vessels (Murphy, 2006, p.96). While drawing heavily from the Panama Canal case, this paper critically examines the proposal on the deepening of the Jacksonville Port with a view to making recommendations thereon. The Jacksonville Port
The Jacksonville Port in the State of Florida, United States of America has played and continues to play a significant role in the U.S economy and that of the East coast. The port follows the St. John’s River over a stretch of about 43.5 kilometers in the Northeastern part of Florida and ends at the City of Jacksonville. The port is a major shipping channel large commercial vessel. The port is one of the 14 ports that form the Florida Fourteen Public Deep-water Seaports System (Merch, 2010, p.148-53; Bingham, 2007, p.17-22). The Proposed Port Expansion
The Jacksonville Port project is expected to boost the State of Florida’s competitive advantage in the global market arena, catalyze economic growth, and enhance the creation of lucrative jobs for citizens in different parts of the state. Anchored on the Panama Canal Expansion Vision 2014, the deepening of the port is believed to portend numerous economic advantages owing to the expected increase cargo and cruise passengers crossing through the Florida seaport system. The port deepening of the port is expected to:
Generate substantial returns through local and state taxes that will be collected from the port activities and projects. The expansion of the port is also expected to create about 2,000 permanent jobs, 870 temporary construction-related jobs, and about 1,800 logistics industry-related jobs. A report by Gordon (2011, p.7) has also indicated that the expansion of the port has the potential of generating approximately $ 14.3 million in both state and local taxes annually when fully built and utilized.
It is with reference to these anticipated economic benefits attributed to the port that the port’s authority, players from the logistic industry and other relevant stakeholders have urged the State of Florida to contribute $337.3 million towards the expansion project that is expected to cost $ 110 million. The balance is expected to be raised from federal, local seaport, and private sector sources. According to the proponents, the expected amount could be raised by the State of Florida investing in projects aimed at improving the Jacksonville Port’s infrastructure such as harbor deepening, container and cargo facility improvement, as well as cruise facility development (Riggs, 2011, p.69-99).
With regard to the State funding, the proposal advises the State of Florida to make use of the current seaport bonding programs and execute additional annual investment of about $25 million in such programs. This move is expected to generate about $400 million. Secondly, the State is urged to initiate an international logistics infrastructure and trade investment fund that will go a long way in increasing Florida’s competitive advantage in the global market arena (Sheldon, 2012, p.16-19; Freebairn, 2008, p.33-37)). In this regard, the State can direct funds to priority projects for the port, logistic-based distribution centers, intermodal road connectors, and rail facilities. Whether the anticipated economic benefits can be realized, has drawn controversies from different quarters. However, the expansion of the Panama Canal is a relevant case study that could inform the decision on the proposed deepening of the Jacksonville Port. The Panama Canal Expansion
The Panama Canal has played a pivotal role in linking ship traffic between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans since its opening in 1914. The Canal, which is about 50 miles long, is made of a series of artificial lakes, locks, as well as channels. In every single, year, the canal receives over 14,000 ships carrying at least 275 million tons of cargo. The proposal to expand the canal came into effect on September 3, 2007 and the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) anticipates the completion of the project in 2014.
According to Gallagher (2005, p.48-49), the proposed expansion of the canal is expected to have significant impact on the maritime system of the United States. For instance, the expansion is expected to lead to the development of new and improvement of existing shipping routes within the U.S maritime system and at the same time enhances port development. Other anticipated benefits include increased cargo distribution, job creation, and increase in container trade occasioned by higher cases of vessel transits through the canal.
However, the expansion project is expected to face a number of challenges ranging from logistics to economic challenges. For example, critics to the proposed expansion opine that the timing and extent of the anticipated impacts and the location of such impacts on fleet and cargo is just hard to predict. For instance, the occurrences, timing, and extent of the impacts are premised on mere assumptions, a phenomenon critics point out ma y negatively impact on the taxpayers money if the project is okayed without further feasibility studies (Bellman, 2001, p.46-49). Moreover, the economic assumptions attributed to the canal’s expansion are so diverse in nature that predicting the timing and location of the impacts remain a bigger challenge. Other challenges facing the proposed expansion include lack of knowledge regarding the availability of water, melting of the Arctic passage, as well as the development at rival ports (Harrell, 2010, p.37-39). All these challenges have created clouds of uncertainty of the project planners’ heads.
Ther are therefore a number of lessons to be learned from the panama case for the proposed deepening of the Jacksonville Port. It is the conviction of this paper that the Jacksonville Port project poses great economic and social benefits to the region and a lot of effort should be directed towards its successful implementation and completion. Conclusion and Recommendations
In view of the above, this paper concludes that the proposed deepening of the Jacksonville Port will stimulate significant economic growth in the region. However, alive to the logistical challenges the project is likely face at different project cycles, the paper makes the following recommendations to the Port’s authority and the planning team. i. There is need to prove and determine the functional capacity of the deepened Jacksonville Port. This should involve the estimation of the post-Jacksonville vessels calls. ii. The port’s authority and the planning team need to evaluate the toll structure of the port and identify the breakpoints between Jacksonville port and other competing ports. Moreover, there is need to examine the tools and price advantages attributed to the post-Jacksonville vessels. This will increase the accuracy of the forecasts regarding traffic through the port. iii. The planning team should also evaluate the capacity of the port’s water volume to handle the expected future demand. This will enhance the establishment of maximum traffic levels at the port. iv. There is also need to commission a study to assess the expected new orders that are likely to be associated post-Jacksonville containerships vis-à-vis the new proposals for expansion.
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