There is landside infrastructure that’s currently in various states of being constructed. We have the Florida East Coast Railway with the intermodal yard that will be constructed in Southport, which will be the only facility of its kind in the United States in that it will have both the domestic cargo and the international cargo gate. The Florida Department of Transportation is doing a major construction project right here at the end of 595 right at the entrance to our gate.
Those pieces are already there. The water is the last remaining piece of the puzzle that will allow Port Everglades to remain viable.Q. What is the status of your deep dredge plans?
The process would entail a study conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get the project authorized in law.. . . The status of it right now is we have a study that’s winding down and getting to the point of its final approach to approval.
I’ve been working with the Army Corps of Engineers to get things on track. They’ve been responsive. So I’m optimistic that we can get the report finalized within the next year or so. After that, we’ll evaluate the approach that needs to be taken to move the project forward to become reality. Q. Is the goal still 2017?
Yes. Now, some of the things that were originally envisioned in that project, which probably contributed to slowing it down, was the Southport Turning Notch expansion. The port needs additional berth space. If we had the extra berths, they would be fully utilized.. . . Recognizing that, it was decoupled from the deepening project and the port is pursuing that on its own. It’s already permitted. Q. Can you explain kind of in layman’s terms why a 50-foot level is so key and why the dredge project is so important?
It’s a matter of really the shipping industry. There’s a lot of changes occurring in that industry right now. Everybody hears about the Panama Canal widening. And while that does play a key role here, I’m not so sure that it’s what everybody is making it to be. I think that the free market is going to dictate how the Panama Canal widening plays out. There will be some redistribution of cargo in the short term, but it’s going to be the private sector that will dictate how that move plays out.
I think you have to look beyond that as vessels get older and are retired; they’re going to be replaced with newer vessels. And the newer vessels are going to be larger because I said earlier that the private sector is going to determine the market. One of the other things they’re going to do is they’re going to look for economies of scale. So as larger ships come online, some of the newer ships that are in some of the other trade lanes will be shifted to the trade lanes that we serve. And that’s why it’s key to have the water depth deeper.Q. This is real big picture future, not just immediate need?
We have those ships calling here now. We have petroleum vessels come in light-loaded because we don’t have the water depth to support them coming in fully laden. We have container ships that come in light-loaded for the same reasons. If we had had the draft, they could come in fully loaded.
Ports have to be a variety of things. We generate economic benefit for our community, we help the nation’s gross domestic product because we’re part of the whole trade system that’s in place. We’re also environmental stewards. And we all want to leave what we have here behind for our children or our children’s children, we want to leave it in a better state than when we first arrived.