Monday, October 19, 2015

PANAMA CANAL - Debate in Florida

"How deepening the Panama Canal set off a fierce debate in Jacksonville" PBS NewsHour 10/17/2015


SUMMARY:  A number of port cities on the East Coast are taking steps to deepen their harbors, in an effort to attract bigger-than-ever cargo container ships expected to arrive as early as next year with the expansion of the Panama Canal.  It's all sparked fierce debate in Jacksonville, Florida, as port officials there fight to remain competitive. NewsHour's Megan Thompson reports.

MEGAN THOMPSON (NewsHour):  It’s a typical, busy morning at the port in Jacksonville – Florida’s most populous city.  Vincent Cameron has worked on the docks here for 25 years.

VINCENT CAMERON (dock worker):  These boxes that are coming off these ships behind you have all types of cargo in them, and they go to all different destinations — from your Pier-1s, your Walmarts, your Targets, to your warehouses, to your factories, the paper mill, you name it.

MEGAN THOMPSON:  This massive port imports and exports some 8 million tons of cargo a year, worth around $33 billion dollars…generating almost $170 million in state and local taxes.  The Jacksonville port – called Jaxport for short – is a mid-size port, ranking 37th out of the 99 biggest U.S. ports by cargo volume.  But it’s also one of the fastest growing U.S. ports for exporting.

It ships more cars out of the U.S. than any other port in the country, and it’s a major import hub for companies like Disney, Bacardi, Maxwell house, and Samsonite.  The port is located just off the Atlantic Ocean on the St. Johns River.  When cargo comes in…it’s delivered quickly over three interstate highways even more freight train lines across the southeast United States.

VINCENT CAMERON:  Jacksonville is a port city.  You know, we derive our fruits from the labors that take place right here on these very docks.

MEGAN THOMPSON:  Cameron, a third generation longshoreman, is one of nearly 10,000 people employed at the port…which supports thousands of jobs at local businesses, too.

VINCENT CAMERON:  It’s a big economic engine for the city of Jacksonville, and it needs to survive if the city is going to continue to thrive.

MEGAN THOMPSON:  To thrive in the global economy, Jaxport has spent tens of millions of dollars in the past decade to modernize and to compete with ports to the north, like Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina.  In 2009, the port completed a high-tech terminal with 275-foot tall cranes to reach across the decks of the largest ships that dock here.

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