The Port of Palm Beach prides itself on being an essential lifeline to the Caribbean, moving more than $3.3 billion worth of goods to the islands each year. Many of our tenants primarily do business with the Bahamas, where sixty percent of everything consumed comes from the Port of Palm Beach. Now more than ever before, the Bahamas is depending on the 165 acre port located in Riviera Beach.
Since the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian, the Port of Palm Beach has seen an increase in overall cargo.
In the past five months, the Port of Palm Beach has handled approximately $500 million in cargo to Grand Bahama Island. More than $105 million in cargo to Marsh Harbour in the Abaco Islands and $16 million to Nassau.
The growth driven primarily by relief and recovery efforts. Our tenants have shipped all sorts of goods including food, water, hygiene kits, telephone poles, electricity supplies, shipping containers converted into homes, school supplies, roofing materials, fire engines, campers and construction equipment.
Long time port tenants Gulfstream Line Inc. and Heavy Lift Services, have handled cargo for numerous non-profits organizations needing to ship supplies specifically to the Abaco Islands.
“We are exporting everything you can imagine that’s needed to rebuild a home,” said Tina Dias, Vice President of Gulfstream Line/ Heavy Lift Services.
Tonnage statistics highlight a 42 percent year-to-date total increase. The sister companies handled 27,893 tons of cargo from October 2019 to December 2019 versus 19,586 tons the same period in 2018.
“I think we are nowhere near the end of donated goods. There is still a lot coming through and a lot being talked about,” said Joey Dias, who is a third generation stevedore with Heavy Lift Services.
Another port user meeting the need on the islands is Bahamas Ferries. The company has been exporting cargo from Port of Palm Beach for almost two years now. Just recently, the company locked in new business where they will be shipping building supplies in containers to islands off the Abacos, where rebuilding is just getting started. The company expects to export more cargo this fiscal year with the additional business.
Bahamas Ferries is just one of our users who has benefited from our new mini berth 17. The fully operational berth has allowed us to maximize our berthing capacity and accommodate more users.
The port’s largest tenant, Tropical Shipping, continues to play a major role in the Bahamas current supply chain.
“The export market from the U.S. to the Bahamas increased seven percent in 2019 versus 2018,” said Jeff Fiser, President of Tropical Shipping.
Port of Palm Beach financial statements show Tropical Shipping’s cargo tonnage is up approximately six percent.
Tropical Shipping, has been servicing the Bahamas for almost six decades now. With multiple weekly sailings, Tropical Shipping offers five sailings to Freeport, three sailings to Nassau and two sailings to Marsh Harbour.
To keep up with the demand in the Bahamas and the rest of Caribbean Basin, Tropical Shipping built and successfully deployed six new container vessels. Two are Mini Express class vessels holding 300 TEUs and four are Carib class vessels holding 1,100 TEUs.
A $4 million capital improvement project at the Port of Palm Beach provides Tropical Shipping with the infrastructure they need to expand its services in the Bahamas. Right now, the Port of Palm Beach is in the final stages of completing a 3.2 acre refrigerated container yard.
“The new space will improve safety, give us additional reefer plugs to support growth in our reefer business, and improve efficiencies that will facilitate our overall growth through the Port of Palm Beach,” said Fiser.
Tropical Shipping’s refrigerated container volume is expected to grow from 450 TEUs to approximately 750 TEUs, when the containers are stacked at three high.
A 3.2 acre refrigerated container yard is now located just east of the Sky Pass Bridge just feet away from Tropical Shipping’s operation.
The additional space will allow Tropical Shipping to keep up with the demand for refrigerated goods (i.e. food and other perishable commodities) to meet additional consumption from cruise passengers sailing to the Caribbean.
A portion of those passengers sail from the Port of Palm Beach on the exclusive Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line. The company was the first cruise line to dock in Freeport following Hurricane Dorian. The company exported more than 700,000 pounds of humanitarian aid, transported about 600 volunteers to assist with immediate relief efforts on Grand Bahama Island and evacuated more than 1,000 documented Bahamian residents to South Florida.
“Our onboard volunteers and ship personnel came together and showcased the true American spirit of friendship and selflessness, and we couldn’t have done it without their support,” said Oneil Khosa, CEO of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line.
The cruise line’s two cruise ships, the Grand Celebration and the Grand Classica, have become a dominant form of transportation for Bahamians who are rebuilding their homes on the affected islands. As cruise passengers, they have the ability to ship supplies and goods in pallets.
In an effort designed to further boost the Bahamas’ economy, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line also added Nassau as a second destination option for guests following the storm – introducing its unique Cruise & Stay Program there and giving travelers two ways to getaway. Cruisers can now extend their stay on Nassau at one of several partner resorts, including Atlantis, Meliá Nassau Beach Resort, and SLS Baha Mar while experiencing personal encounters with marine life, private cabanas, premier nightlife and luxury dining options.
The cruise line has several promotions ahead of spring break including “Kids Sail Free” all spring and summer, “Coast to Toast” which gives passengers open bar access for an additional $99 and “Chase the Sun” where a second guest sails for 50 percent off.
In addition, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line formed a partnership with Brightline, an express inter-city rail system between Miami and West Palm. Passengers can now book a package that includes transportation from the West Palm Beach Brightline station to the Port of Palm Beach.
With some 463,000 cruise passengers sailing from Palm Beach County every year, the port plans to invest $1.5 million in renovating our cruise passenger loading bridge. The bridge would give the port the flexibility to accommodate different cruise ships.
For more information and to connect with the Port of Palm Beach, visit https://portofpalmbeach.com/, twitter.com/PortofPalmBeach, facebook.com/PortofPalmBeachDistrict and https://www.instagram.com/portofpalmbeach/.