My Feverish Argument For JAXPORT Harbor Deepening

November 15, 2013 23 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville's Robert Mann expresses his opinion of why dredging the St. Johns River is critical to the future survival of JAXPORT.

#1.  A deeper harbor, this is a no brainer for the reasons explained in the 'Alphaliner.'

(PHOTO:Wiki Commons)

(PHOTO:Wiki Commons)

These photos provide graphic evidence of the future of small container ship ports. (PHOTO:Wiki Commons)

(Alphaliner is no less an authority than a weekly international newsletter filled with information and analysis on ocean shipping developments, its coverage includes key industry issues including capacity evolution, carrier profiles, volume developments, trade lane features, service schedules, vessel orders and deliveries, scrapping, shipyard and terminal development updates):

How much would you invest to provide port facilities for this vessel? This is what is being suggested by the anti-expansion crowd.

#2.  An on dock rail. The proposed intermodal yard needs tracks that are easily accessible from the dockside in the terminals, to allow for ship to rail car loading.

#3.  We need to explore running that Blount Island branchline straight west (under port or joint railroad control) to Dinsmore (the electric transmission line right-of-way would be a ripe cherry) then south to Westlake. This idea would take the JAXPORT Railroad in a crescent around the north side and west side of the city. It would open direct access to the NS 'Simpson' container yard, as well as the massive CSX facility in the same neighborhood. As the Florida East Coast and the NS both have run-through agreements (meaning the trains of one road can move seamlessly right on through over the other road) thus this line would be a defacto connection with the FEC RY as well. This also presents an opportunity to run a spur onto airport property where another, smaller, container facility could be located, as well as rail access to the free trade zone.

#4.  Get active and recruit every logistical “value added: business in the country. We need to follow in Savannah, and other busy ports’ footsteps so people at least know where Jacksonville is.

#5.  The Dames Point Bridge can be raised. Raising a cable stayed bridge is pretty elementary. Perhaps we were too hasty in turning down the Gulftainer deal which promised to assist us with channel deepening as well as pay for the bridge and power lines to be raised. My engineering connections have said we should be able to squeeze another 12' feet of height.


(Photo: Huntsville Logistics Center)

(Photo: Huntsville Logistics Center)

Huntsville Logistics Center, Huntsville, Alabama, is a similar idea - minus the waterway... IMAGINE! (Google Image)

Huntsville Logistics Center (Google Image)

Virginia Port Authority Barge Traffic (Photo: Wiki Commons)

The pre-development facility in Green Cove Springs far exceeds anything Huntsville has had to construct... IMAGINE INDEED! (Google Image)

A joint JAXPORT-CLAY COUNTY Port could be a reality and cause our interstate barge traffic to swell. The old Navy base in Green Cove Springs is an excellent port for barges and shallow draft ships. It once had some 400 navy ships tied up at the docks. Consider this, the old airport (with short 5,000 foot runways) could easily be reopened and the east-west and north-south runways extended and thickened to 8,000 and 12,000 foot standards. This done and the former Lee Field, which still has it's tarmac, tower and hangers intact, could handle the largest cargo planes. The old base still has an active rail system that serves various industries adjacent to the tarmac, as well as a wye 'Y' track (junction) which formerly crossed highway 16 and went dockside. Bringing rail back to dockside or even out on the massive concrete piers would truly be a piece of cake, the wye tracks and the dockside right-of-way is intact. Lastly, with highway SR-16 and the nearby highway US-17 which cris-cross at Green Cove Springs at right angles, means that the trucking sector has ready access. By building a 2-3 track container loading facility on the tarmac, and the addition of dockside rail, the Green Cove location is the only place in Florida and perhaps the south where Highway, Rail, Air Cargo, Marine Shipping, all come together in a compact way. If the TPO or Clay doesn't intervene, the FDOT is going to destroy the old airport by running the outer-beltway a couple hundred feet off the end of the runway, forever sealing it off as a minor facility - if anything at all.

A multi-modal Air-Rail-River-Highway container facility at this location would be one-of-a-kind in the Southeastern USA. Attracting barge and a myriad of air cargo and trucking concerns along with the sundry follow-on industrial development would be elementary. Huntsville has become a world destination for cargo and industry starting with far less then Clay is sitting on. Like the proverbial citizens of Botswana, walking barefoot over diamonds, Clay County and the Jacksonville/Clay MSA may be ignoring the obvious.


Here is a similar terminal in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada (Photo: Prince Rupert Port Authority)

Passenger improvements are needed as is a long term contract for a cruise ship/s to use such a facility. We should be vigorous in soliciting such opportunities. Get the blinders off and look along that river, there are several places for the deep water cruise ships to call home. We own the Mayport property and the terminal alone would save the ferry and guarantee actual life in the little community. We are not Miami, or Port Canaveral, and that terminal would serve more as a mixed use neighborhood retail/restaurant center then it would a 24/7 passenger facility. When ships are in they are moving quickly to turn them and get them back out, a ship at the sea wall isn't making money so most of the time, even with 3-5 ships based here, that terminal would be 'The Terminal Shops at Mayport.'

The second and last aspect of the passenger business could make us the Miami, Port Everglades or Port Canaveral of the growing small ship cruise market. With one bold step, a joint JAXPORT/COJ/VISIT JACKSONVILLE/FL MARINE WELCOME CENTER/DOWNTOWN VISION, complex could be housed in a small stylish building along the Riverwalk. This unique little building would be a mini-cruise port, a place for visitors to get a cup of Joe or OJ, pick up a river chart, get directions to a concert or watch a short film on the city. A hybrid of the typical Freeway Welcome Centers with access directly to or from the small ships that already call on us weekly. This could be considered in the DIA as some of that 'Low hanging fruit,' all of this including the regular visits by the small ships already takes place downtown, let’s give it a house that screams WELCOME.


The incredible Lockheed-Martin P-791 is being put through its paces at the Skunk Works in California.(PHOTO:Lockheed-Martin Corporation)

Since 1993 airships have been built again in the Zeppelin town of Friedrichshafen and with a half dozen new Zeppelins flying again, things are getting more exciting by the day. (Wiki Commons Photo)

Aeros is now flying the worlds largest airship, and there's more to come.(PHOTO:Aeros Corporation)

(PHOTO:Wiki Commons)

The last idea may send some into fits of laughter, but I'm here to tell you, this is no joke. Rigid Airships (generally called Zeppelins) are a reality again. The P-791 by Lockheed Martin, Aeroscraft and Northrop Grumman's - Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, are already flying. Zeppelin Corporation and Russia are also getting into the game. The new airships are worlds apart from the historic zeppelins and the new group are just test beds for much larger ships to come. The fact that budget cuts might have killed the military's interest, at least for a time, is playing well for commercial use. Alaska DOT is already working with these companies to create a new transportation system. The new giants will have incredible capacity, they are VTOL or STOL aircraft, meaning vertical take-off and landing or short take off and landing. The thrust is directional meaning they can land in an oversize parking lot… like Blount Island, Imeson or JIA for example. They can cross the Atlantic sipping approximately the same amount of fuel as a 747 uses moving from the gate to the end of the runway. They can also slice a week+ ocean container voyage for high priority goods to a little under two days. This is revolutionary and if JAXPORT or the Aviation Authority has any motivation, they should be on this like white on rice. Everyone else is rolling their eyes, swapping email images of 'The Hindenburg crash,' and laughing by the water cooler, maybe so, but maybe we could join with Alaska and laugh all the way to the bank.

Editorial by Robert Mann

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