JAXPORT leaders vote on $62 million agreement to boost trade between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Port Authority leaders voted unanimously Monday morning on a $62 million agreement to strengthen trade between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico.

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Jacksonville and Puerto Rico will continue to collaborate in all types of areas that boost local economies, adding to supply chain security.

The partnership is with Jacksonville-based shipping company Trailer Bridge.

It will take effect at the end of 2023, and Trailer Bridge will remain at Blount Island through at least 2041, mirroring the company’s lease with the Puerto Rico Ports Authority (PRPA).

“It solidifies our relationship with the island of Puerto Rico for the next 18 years,” JAXPORT CEO Eric Green said.

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Trailer Bridge provides twice-weekly barge service between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico and serves as a full-service logistics provider in domestic and international trade.

This all comes as Jacksonville is the No. 1 U.S. port for trade with Puerto Rico, handling nearly 90% of all sea trade between the island and the U.S. mainland.

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Mitch Luciano is Trailer Bridge’s CEO.

“This is a big deal for Trailer Bridge,” Luciano said. “It really sets us up to make the investments we need to make in the Puerto Rican trade.”

Luciano shared how the Puerto Rican economy has been holding up.

“After Hurricane Maria, it did take a hit,” Luciano said. “A lot of people left the island and came to Florida, but we’ve seen a lot of the young people go back to Puerto Rico. So, it’s starting to start to build up again.”

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In 2021, JAXPORT signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the PRPA to affirm the ongoing work of both organizations to grow maritime trade between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico. Under the MOU, PRPA and JAXPORT will continue collaborating on key areas, including business development, environmental protection, operations, and security

JAXPORT currently has three Puerto Rican ocean carriers.

“The business is growing,” Joel Piza-Batiz, CEO of PRPA, said. “We are making substantial investments in infrastructure on the island. As I say, we are not competitors. We are partners.”

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Piza-Batiz said he hopes to see more growth and more trade over the next 18 years.

Puerto Rico is Jacksonville’s number one trading partner by annual cargo volume with nearly 900,000 container units and tens of thousands of automobiles shipped annually between the two regions.

“We’re developing our services and international market, which we work on every day, every week and every month,” Green said. “We’re looking forward to that. The ships are getting bigger.”