By Beverly Blankley
The central square
March 11, 2022

As many businesses continue to leave California for Texas and elsewhere, international shipping lines have stepped up operations in Florida, with one launching a new East Coast service and its first port in Florida, bypassing West Coast and California ports.

Sea Lead Shipping Pte Ltd, a privately held global shipping company headquartered in Singapore, has announced the launch of a new service linking ports in East Asia with ports on the East Coast of the United States – the first port being JAXPORT in Florida.

Sea Lead Shipping “will move some of its operations from California to JAXPORT to circumvent severe congestion in the Port of Long Beach,” Governor Ron DeSantis’ office announced. This will be “the first U.S. East Coast container service for the company and JAXPORT will serve as the last port of call on Sea-Lead’s East Coast Asia rotation, connecting Jacksonville to 4 locations in Asia”.

The company’s Asia East Coast (AEC) service “will provide shippers with reliable and fast service that avoids the port congestion that hampers efficient service at many other ports,” it says. The AEC service will be served by four vessels with an average capacity of 6,100 TEUs.

The new AEC service begins on March 7, with Nansha’s first departure. JAXPORT’s Blount Island terminal will receive its first vessels in May 2022.

Sea Lead’s Managing Director, Cho Kit Wei, said, “Port congestion has been a challenge for everyone recently and the AEC will enable us to serve more efficient ports for our customers. We are confident that the market and our partners will respond well to the service, and we look forward to developing strong partnerships on this business path. »

The announcement comes after months of an aggressive marketing campaign by Florida officials, several years of investments in Florida’s ports and infrastructure, and a specific invitation from DeSantis last October for businesses to move. their operations to Florida ports.

Last October, DeSantis announced that seaports in Florida had open capacity and could meet vacation demand, while other seaports across the country were struggling with traffic jams. He extended the invitation to JAXPORT, stating that JAXPORT, Port Everglades, Port Tampa Bay and Port Panama City all had availability to handle more cargo.

“Year after year, we continue to invest in our seaports, infrastructure and workforce training to ensure our supply chain is resilient,” DeSantis said. “I’m especially proud of Florida’s seaports. They are crown jewels in our state. While other U.S. ports on the fly advertise 24-hour operations, in Florida many of our ports are accustomed to serving Florida farmers, families and businesses with 24-hour operations.”

To sweeten the deal, JAXPORT said it was offering incentives to any company that chooses to bring its business to the port. Since then, several companies have approached JAXPORT to relocate their operations to Florida, many citing DeSantis’ invitation.

The Florida Ports Council also aggressively ramped up its marketing strategies in the second half of 2021, encouraging cargo ships stranded in congested and delayed California seaports to change shipping lanes and divert to Florida ports.

Last weekend, Florida officials attended a conference in California inviting cargo companies to come to Florida. Leaders from Florida Ports Council, JAXPORT, Port Everglades, PortMiami, Port Tampa Bay and Port Manatee highlighted Florida’s port vessel capabilities, equipment capacity and 24-hour supply chain efficiency /24 and 7/7.

Within a week, Sea Lead Shipping announced that it was transferring part of its operations from the port of Long Beach, California to JAXPORT.

Sea Lead Shipping’s new service is initially expected to bring 400-500 loaded containers to be unloaded at JAXPORT and generate $400,000 in new revenue.

Florida has recently broken freight container records, seen new shipping lines call at Florida ports, and successfully shifted cargo that would typically call at West Coast ports to the Sunshine State.

JAXPORT CEO Eric Green said Sea Lead Shipping’s decision to use JAXPORT, “and the jobs and economic impact it brings to Jacksonville, is a direct result of the dedication and foresight of our elected officials who have invested in a deeper channel and infrastructure upgrades to allow JAXPORT to service a wider variety of vessels.

Since 2019, Florida has invested nearly $1 billion in its seaports to ensure they have the capacity to move as much cargo as possible, and has prioritized infrastructure investments in roads to ensure the ability to manage freight movements.

In his 2022-23 budget proposal, DeSantis earmarked $10.4 billion for Florida’s transportation infrastructure. The funding will allow Florida seaports to double the capacity of the cargo containers they receive from 4 million to 8 million containers per year.

Florida’s seaports are a major economic engine, supporting 900,000 direct and indirect jobs and contributing nearly $118 billion to the state’s economy through cargo and cruise ship operations, the Florida Ports Council said. .

JAXPORT and Port Everglades, two of Florida’s 15 seaports, began seeing an increase in the number of cargo ships calling at their ports last year in an effort to avoid port congestion elsewhere. Port Everglades has seen 11% year-over-year growth and is up more than 25% year-to-date.

At Port Manatee, the first quarter of 2022 showed a 15% increase in short tons. Wood products, which normally go to California, arrived in Port Manatee instead.

PortMiami had its busiest freight year ever, up nearly 18% from a year ago, with most of the extra freight attributed to imports from Asia, which would normally go to California.

Port Tampa’s container tonnage grew 14% in the first quarter of 2022. It saw huge jumps in building materials with steel up 122% and lumber up 160% .

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