Report: Florida seaports show strong recovery, significant investments since pandemic

by | Jul 13, 2022

  • Florida seaports are becoming a “global hub” and are positioned to tackle supply chain demands in 2022
  • The state’s cargo volume saw a solid recovery in 2021, with individual ports experiencing better growth over the past year
  • A five-year plan, with investments totaling $4.5 billion, is underway to bolster Florida ports
  • The seaport investment plan is directed at terminal expansion, technology, and other improvements

A strong post-pandemic recovery coupled with continued investments in Florida’s 15 seaports has the state well-positioned to answer supply chain demands and take advantage of a realignment in global trade routes, a new report shows.

The Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development Council (FSTED) on Wednesday released its 2021-2022 Seaport Mission Plan, analyzing the industry and providing a snapshot of what’s on the horizon.

The council’s report showed that the state’s cargo volume saw a solid recovery in 2021. Total tonnage (inbound and outbound) rose dramatically, with seaports seeing a 118% year-over-year increase as markets and supply chains regained stability. Additionally, Liquid bulk cargo accounted for nearly 73% percent of total waterborne cargo tonnage, which was up 26% over 2020.

A deeper dive into the study found that several individual ports drew high marks and experienced substantial growth over the past year. Port Miami recorded its busiest cargo year in history, up almost 18% over last year. Port Tampa Bay also saw a 14% container tonnage increase in the first quarter of 2022, while Port Everglades saw 11% growth year-over-year — up more than 25% year-to-date.

Michael Rubin, president and CEO of the ports council, noted Florida’s strong rebound has resulted in global shipping lines changing trade lanes to specifically call on Florida ports as West Coast ports grapple with lingering labor issues and supply-chain problems.

Rubin added that many shippers have already changed lanes to reroute to East Coast ports in fears that 2022 labor negotiations could lead to similar strikes, lockouts and slowdowns that occurred in 2002, 2008, 2012 and 2014.

“Florida’s seaports are flexing their muscles, and seizing the opportunity to become a global hub by capturing an even larger share of international trade and related commercial activities,” Rubin said in a statement.

Florida’s cruise industry is also beginning to recover, with today’s report forecasting that nearly 25 million people will go on a cruise in 2022. Despite the positive outlook, Rubin said that the cruise industry, which relies heavily on Florida ports, still has a long way to go before it can meet the pre-pandemic levels seen in 2019.

Additionally, Wednesday’s analysis outlined a five-year capital improvement plan aimed at bolstering Florida seaports to connect more commerce and strengthen the state’s economy. Florida’s 15 ports identified more than $4.5 billion in investments, with much of the seaport investment plan directed at cargo terminal expansion, channel and harbor deepening, land acquisition, and operational improvements.

The outlook added that 75% of port investments are being made in Atlantic coast seaports, with the remaining 25% being made by Gulf coast seaports.

“Florida’s continued investment in our seaports have made it a destination for companies from around the world frustrated with the logjams at Pacific coast ports,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “We will continue to make the investments necessary to bolster our supply chain and improve our infrastructure to bring more business to Florida’s seaports.”

According to the report, Florida ports account for $117.6 billion in economic value to the state.


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