A convergence of events that are happening in Florida right now is affording Asian shippers a way to ship exports to US Southeast markets and beyond via the Port of Miami and intermodal rail provided by Florida East Coast Railway (FECR).
PortMiami is undergoing significant infrastructure improvements that will facilitate anticipated increased shipments coming via the expanded Panama Canal upon its completion next year. This year, the port anticipates the completion of its Deep Dredge Project that will deepen the port to 50 feet (15 metres) and accommodate the larger post Panamax steamship vessels.
Per September 30, 2013, data, the latest available, the Asia Pacific market encompassed 39% of all cargo at PortMiami, with China imports totalling 837,845 teus.
Other improvements at PortMiami include the completed on-dock rail loading facility. This seamless ship to rail transfer allows the port to handle additional volumes and ensures that FECR can speed loads more quickly and efficiently from PortMiami.
FECR was responsible for upgrading the track at PortMiami.
FECR’s on-dock intermodal rail facility at PortMiami is the next step in the company’s ongoing efforts to promote multi-modal shipping and support global trade into and out of South Florida.
FECR is a 550-kilometre freight rail line located along the east coast of Florida and the exclusive rail provider for PortMiami, Port Everglades, and Port of Palm Beach. Its system connects to the national railroad network in Jacksonville, and provides carload and door-to-door intermodal solutions across North America to customers who demand cost-effective and premium quality service.
With the opening of the expanded Panama Canal, FECR president and CEO James Hertwig anticipates a shift of cargo to South Florida ports from Savannah and Charleston.
“With our rail service, we can service Charlotte in two days, Atlanta in two days, so, in essence, we can have the cargo at destination by the time the ships arrive at Savannah or Charleston,” he says, noting that this is accomplished via interchange with CSX or Norfolk Southern railways at Jacksonville.
Today, FECR is loading trains out of PortMiami and moving cargo to various places along its network. The service is a boon to retailers that import cargo from Asia. Big box retailers Wal-Mart and Target particularly stand to benefit from the improvement since they can bring cargo north on FECR’s rail line rather than transporting shipments via truck. Previously, the practice was to ship cargo to seaports to the north and truck cargo down to South Florida.
Even more significant, those shipments can move on further to places like Jacksonville, Florida, or Charlotte, North Carolina, and be handled only once.
“This saves time and money,” Hertwig says.
FECR also opened a new state-of-the-art intermodal container transfer facility (ICTF) adjacent to Crowley Maritime’s terminal in Port Everglades in July. The strategic location of the 43-acre, near-dock facility allows Crowley to handle bigger, heavier break bulk and out-of-gauge cargo more efficiently and cost effectively because of the shorter distance required for transit to and from the rail facility.
“This creates a lot of opportunity for growth in the future at Port Everglades,” Hertwig said.
Crowley has been one of FECR’s largest intermodal customers since the company established a terminal in South Florida.
Today, Hertwig believes that FECR is well poised for increased opportunity given cargo demands from Florida’s growing population. Central and Southern Florida is home to some 13 million people. Florida also welcomes more than 90 million visitors per year.
“This makes Florida a high consuming state with a lot of cargo from Asia being imported,” he said.
Given today’s capacity tightness in the trucking industry, FECR’s improvements give steamship lines increased opportunity to fill ships and cover the entire southeast of the United States.
“And trucking capacity is only going to get tighter in the next several years,” Hertwig adds. “Rail is most efficient way to move cargo. With the type of service we provide into the southeast, there will be a tremendous advantage for our railroad coming from the South Florida ports.”
As an added benefit, Hertwig points out that Flagler Global Logistics, a company owned by Florida East Coast Industry (FECR’s sister company), recently built warehousing immediate adjacent to FECR’s intermodal facility in Miami. Its first building is some 160,000 square metres with another 37,000 square metre warehouse and distribution coming on line soon.
“Since the cargo is not transported on public highways, it can go quickly to those warehouse and distribution centres and be processed,” he says. “The facility also helps save costs and repositions ocean containers that otherwise would go inland. “
This means cargo that would otherwise be loaded in three 40-foot containers can now be loaded into two domestic 53-foot containers. “This creates a perfect marriage in that those containers are just waiting down there to gather up a load,” Hertwig says. “We can put the empty container on the ship so that it can go back to Asia for another load.”
By Karen E Thuermer
Correspondent | Washington