Fernandina Beach, FL, August 05, 2019 --(PR.com
)-- The U.S. Department of Transportation designated the Port of Fernandina as an operator on its American Marine Highway, an action that will help move truck traffic off congested area roads and onto local waterways. The designation, which was announced Tuesday, July 30 by Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao, also makes the Port eligible for federal funds.
“The designation of marine highways by Congress will help move cargo and people to help grow the economy and shift freight off of congested highways,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a statement announcing the designation. Congress has appropriated $7 million in 2019 for these projects.
Area Congressman John Rutherford, who helped champion the port’s designation, praised the DOT’s action saying: “The Port of Fernandina plays a crucial role in the economic development of Northeast Florida and spurs our reputation as a logistics hub of the Eastern Seaboard. By designating the Port as part of the America’s Marine Highway Program, the U.S. Department of Transportation provides Fernandina Beach the tools they need to build on the incredible growth seen in recent years and to ease traffic congestion throughout the region. I thank Secretary Chao for her leadership and commitment to America’s seaports.”
The DOT designation comes on the heels of a visit to the port by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in late March this year when he called it the "crown jewel for exporting northeast Florida forest products and manufactured products to China and the rest of the world.” He added that, “the Port of Fernandina is creatively spearheading a model of providing new and efficient services that relieve the burden on our already overtaxed infrastructure."
Fernandina Port officials said being designated a marine federal highway is a validation of their plans to add barge services to other east coast ports, as well as opening the door to federal funding.
“There is a major market opportunity for short-sea shipping, by diverting containers that typically move by truck and putting them on barges instead,” says Worldwide Terminals CEO Christopher T. Ragucci, whose company serves as the terminal operators of the Port of Fernandina. “Fernandina's marine highway route along, M-95, could ultimately connect Fernandina by sea to Jacksonville, Savannah and Charleston and beyond.”
"These connections with surrounding hub-ports will enable users of Fernandina to connect with virtually every other Port in the world through the large shipping lines calling at these other ports, while at the same time, taking a significant number of trucks off the road," he explains.
Nassau County Economic Development Board Executive Director and Port Director, Laura DiBella, also sees the marine highway designation as a significant economic milestone for the port.
"As trucking congestion continues to grow, it’s becoming obvious that our strategic location and on-dock rail system can offer more reliable and cost-effective opportunities when combined with our proposed container-on-barge service,” she says. "It’s only a matter of time before a hub and spoke model similar to that of airports will become commonplace among seaports, and we are proud to be at the forefront of this environmentally sustainable effort.”
Modernization of the port’s facilities are on-going with plans for capital investments of $15 million for additional cranes, cargo handling equipment, on-dock warehousing, and deepening of the berths to 40 feet MLW say officials.
The Port of Fernandina is a rail-served, natural deep-water port on the Atlantic seaboard adjoining the U.S. mainland, just 2.2 miles from the open ocean. It handles a variety of cargoes, including steel, aluminum, machinery, forest products project cargo and manufactured goods. It has 250,000 square-feet of on-site warehouse space, 100,000+ square-feet off-port, and 10 acres of open storage, all which sits minutes away from a new six-lane A1A/SR 200 highway enabling easy access to both Interstates 95 and 10. The Port of Fernandina supports more than 65 direct jobs and hundreds of indirect jobs throughout Nassau County and contributes greatly to the local economy. The Port of Fernandina handled over 290,000 tons of cargo last year and is on course to double this amount in 2019. www.portoffernandina.org