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Budget Cuts Impact Dredging at Jacksonville

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

According historical data, shipping numbers should rise as usual this summer, even in comparison to the numbers from March of last year. The four months of dockworker slowdowns and strikes on the West Coast had quite a bit of positive impact on East Coast port logistics in early 2015, including the Port of Jacksonville. There was some expectation that growth would be harder to come by after those artificially inflated numbers.

However, the good news about rising shipping numbers ran aground on the bad news coming out of the Baltimore session between the federal administration and the American Association of Port Authorities, as well as February budget cuts. Those had already been met with the statement on February 9 by AAPA’s president and CEO Kurt Nagle, that they were “deeply troubled by a grossly imbalanced budget that would cut funding for maintenance and modernization of federal navigation channels, the critical waterside infrastructure that connect our ports and nation to the world marketplace.”

Budget cut clarifications show there will be no federal funding for the necessary dredging work needed in Florida, including the port at Jacksonville. The sequential nature of the funding allocations already in place puts Savannah’s port well ahead of Jacksonville in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ priority list.

The timing is unfortunate, as the long-awaited completion of the Panama Canal in 2016 will allow “New Panamax” sized ships to transit. This would open up massive Pacific shipping, once limited to West Coast ports, to use Jacksonville as both a first and last port of call.

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