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Port of Fernandina director talks new crane and what it means for Nassau County's economy

The Port of Fernandina is stepping it up with the addition of a new crane to their fleet.

Action News Jax Courtney Cole spoke to port director to find out why the new addition took so long and what it means for the economic landscape of Nassau County.

Ray Nelson has been working at the Port of Fernandina for eight years now.

“In my position, I oversee the terminal operations, dock operations, vessel ... inbound, outbound, discharging, loading of the various cargoes, lumber, steel, wood,” Nelson told Action News Jax Courtney Cole.

The terminal manager said he’s glad to see the new crane finally make its way to the yard.

It’s been 30 years since they’ve received one.

Laura DiBella, the port director of the Port of Fernandina, told Cole it's all thanks to new leadership.
"There wasn't enough attention given to this port for quite some time and capital therein. So, now we have a new terminal operator—WorldWide Terminals Fernandina," said DiBella.

STORY: Neighbors against coal transport at Port of Fernandina

The new crane will allow more cargo to flow through the port.

“It’ll give us more flexibility and capability to make heavy lifts and to handle different type of cargoes,” said Nelson.

And will also call for more workers to operate the machinery.

That’s what Nelson said he looks forward to the most!

“We had a high school out here this morning. Those youngsters were unsure if they wanted to go to college, not go to college. The waterfront is a golden opportunity for those that choose not to. We hire a variety of people here,” Nelson told Action News Jax.

Right now there are 50 full-time employees and three part-time employees at the Port of Fernandina.

"I would say, it could deliver at least another 50 percent of what we have. At least another 25 jobs.

Certainly, if we could double it—make it another 50. Really the sky is the limit when it comes to port capacity. It's just what can we handle ship-wise, cargo-wise,” said DiBella.

While the new crane allows the port to be more competitive, the port director tells me it won’t interfere with JaxPort.

“Jaxport is a tremendous partner to ours. We, fortunately, don't necessarily go after the same business,” said DiBella.

While they focus on smaller operators, DiBella said she looks forward to continuing growth at the port throughout the year.

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