JAXPORT, USACE celebrate completion of deepening project

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Dozens gathered Monday morning to mark the completion of the Jacksonville Harbor Deepening Project through Blount Island.

Federal, state and local elected officials joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Jacksonville District and the Jacksonville Port Authority (JAXPORT).

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Construction for the project began in 2018.

The project has now deepened the federal shipping channel of the St. Johns River from Mayport Naval Station to JAXPORT’s Blount Island Marine Terminal.

The channel will be deepened to a depth of 47 feet from its current depth of 40 feet.

The additional seven feet provides the channel depth needed for JAXPORT to accommodate larger container ships and allows existing ships calling Jacksonville to carry more cargo on board.

Action News Jax spoke with James Booth, the district commander for the Jacksonville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“What’s amazing here today is that it’s in our backyard,” Booth said. “We’re able to have folks in our Jacksonville office actually come out and actually celebrate a ribbon-cutting.”

It’s a moment leaders have been waiting for for almost two decades.

“When you have a deeper draft and deeper channel, that’s going to allow larger vessels to come in and make efficient use of the port,” Booth said.

The project also brings supply chain security for the community and the nation.

The deepening adds to JAXPORT’s goal of building ‘the port of the future.’

Sam Newby, president of the Jacksonville City Council, was one of several leaders present at the ribbon-cutting.

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“Jacksonville has moved to the next level,” Newby said. “This has been started since 2005, and to see this day coming is great.”

According to JAXPORT, Florida’s largest container port, the total funding to date is $420 million.

The project will also create or protect 15,000 jobs throughout the supply chain, including trucking, warehousing and distribution.

“We can compete with other ports and make Jacksonville the best port, not only in the country but in the world,” Newby said.

In coordination with deepening, JAXPORT completed more than $100 million in berth enhancements this month to enable the SSA Jacksonville Container Terminal (JCT) at Blount Island to simultaneously accommodate two post-Panamax container ships.

In early 2023, terminal operator SSA Atlantic will welcome three new eco-friendly 100-gauge container cranes, bringing the JCT’s total to six.

Cargo activity through Jacksonville’s seaport supports 138,000 jobs in Florida and $31 billion in annual economic impact for the region and state.