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Port Everglades On Florida's Short List For $35M In Investment Upgrades

Ed Webster/Flickr

Port Canaveral, Port Everglades and the Port of Tampa are in line to receive $35 million next year to expand their facilities through a state program for strategic port investments.

As part of an effort to position the state's 15 seaports as a single global shipping hub, Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday he will recommend that the Legislature allocate the money to the projects. The announcement came during an appearance at the American Association of PortAuthorities convention in Orlando.

Scott said in a release that the funding will "enhance our ports’ ability to move more goods which will position Florida to play an even greater role in global trade."

Florida Ports Council President and CEO Doug Wheeler said the money "will further position Florida as the gateway to the Americas and beyond."

Scott's announcement came two days after the Florida Chamber of Commerce released a study highlighting the need to increase funding forports, rail, airports and roads to retain the state's trade with the Caribbean and Latin America. The state's share of U.S. exports to the Caribbean and Latin America has dropped 4 percent over the past decade.

The study also pushes for Florida ports to work together against other ports along the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts in an effort to capture sea traffic from Asia that has grown via the Suez Canal and that is expected to further increase as larger ships travel through a widened Panama Canal.

"Florida is uniquely positioned in the center of the hemisphere, and the shift in the U.S. population to the south, the Panama Canal widening, the resurgence of Latin American and Caribbean trade, and the continued revolution in logistics practices create an opportunity for Florida to excel as a global hub," the chamber said in a release that accompanied the study.

The chamber study is a follow-up to its 2010 Trade and Logistics study that called for increased funding for the ports to capture the anticipated increase in global trade through an expanded Panama Canal.

The 2010 study has been used as a blueprint by Scott and the Legislature as lawmakers have increased seaport funding from $117 million in 2011 to about $288 million this year through money set aside for specific port projects and bonding.

The increase includes a line of $35 million that was set aside in 2012 as a recurring fund called the Strategic Port Investment Initiative within the Florida Department of Transportation's work program.

The recommended allocation for next year will be used to develop a container yard at Port Canaveral, lengthen the deepwater turn-around for cargo ships at Port Everglades and improve the container yard at the Port of Tampa.

The $14.7 million for the Port Everglades work, which is expected to eventually allow up to five new cargo berths, is part of a massive $122 million project that already received $13.3 million this year from the state.

The container yard work, $9.7 million at Port Canaveral and $10.4 million at the Port of Tampa, is envisioned as opening the facilities to new markets and new cargo to import and export.

The legislative funding is in addition to money Scott has already floated from the DOT into the dredging at PortMiami --- $75 million --- and to the Jacksonville Port Authority --- $36 million. The state remains hopeful that the federal government will repay those dollars.

In August, the Florida Ports Council announced plans for a study on the current and future policy and investments possible because of scenarios including the widening of the canal, the trend toward larger cargo ships, shifting logistics and the opening of markets in South America. 

The study is expected to complement the chamber's 2010 study. The council is still in the process of hiring a consultant to do the work.

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