It’s no secret that U.S. cargo seaports and passenger seaports are very competitive. While Florida’s seaports have been flexing their muscles over the last several years, showing the world that we are a supply chain solution state, our seaports now stand at their most pivotal point in our state’s history – we either seize the opportunity to become more globally competitive, or we settle with the status quo.
As Florida took advantage of East Coast shipping inefficiencies and urged cargo ships to change lanes and sail to Florida, our competitors were watching. In fact, Texas has just invested over $240 million this year for supply chain projects at their seaports, and Georgia is taking a direct competitive aim at JAXPORT by investing much of a $1.9 billion project list into their Brunswick seaport, which could impact Florida’s auto import book of business.
Compare these investments to Florida’s current $150 million budget allocation. Of course, Florida investments into our seaports are backed up with a 50/50 funding partnership with local port governing authority’s, which helps stretch every dollar. But it does limit our state’s ability to truly seize opportunities before us.
Lawmakers are already holding meetings in preparation for the 2024 Legislative Session, and we’re actively engaged in advocacy efforts at our state Capitol. In the meantime, we continue to urge lawmakers to “seas the opportunity” and make Florida’s seaports even more competitive.
In recent weeks, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries (NOAA Fisheries) have rightly denied a fundamentally flawed request to implement a vessel slow down zone in Gulf of Mexico (GoMX) waters from Pensacola to south of Tampa. The proposed regulation, designed to protect a newly discovered whale called the Rice’s whale, would have virtually shut down port operations at Port Tampa Bay, SeaPort Manatee, Port Panama City and the Port of Pensacola.
While the vessel slow down zone has been denied, NOAA says it is prioritizing actions to finalize a critical habitat for the whale. Of course, we remain actively engaged on this as well.
In fact, we continue to request that NOAA Fisheries conduct an unbiased review of the initial findings on endangered species status and determine whether proper scientific analysis exists on the status and activities of these whales.
Congratulations to JAXPORT for becoming a member of the 100 Percent Club to end human trafficking in Florida. As Attorney General Ashley Moody often reminds us, human trafficking knows no boundaries.
I believe this is an important issue, and encourage all seaports, businesses and organizations to get involved. Visit YouCanStopHT.com to take the one-hour training program and to complete a 100 Percent Club application.
Hats-off to the 175 JAXPORT employees who took the training.
Finally, at this special time of year, I want to share my gratitude to all of Florida ports, the leadership teams that help keep them competitive, and the employees and partners that keep things moving, a very Happy Thanksgiving.