Florida ports remain hopeful after loss of $14B in trade last year

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Florida ports remain hopeful after loss of $14B in trade last year

A new report shows that Florida's seaports are poised to recover from a loss of US$14 billion over last year.

Leading the recovery is the strong growth in cargo volumes that started in the second part of last year and the recent gradual restart of the cruise industry.

The value of trade decreased more than 16 percent in 2020, according to the annual report from the Florida Seaports Transportation and Economic Development Council (FSTED).

“We knew it was going to hit cruise — obviously with that being shut down — but cargo was a little bit of a rude awakening, to see the impact on that,” Michael Rubin, president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council said.

“The good news, again, is that cargo is back up, and it seems to be doing well.”

The report confirms that most of the declines came in the first part of the year due to the uncertainty around COVID-19. 

The recovery occurred in the fall, but most of Florida’s ports experienced declines for the year.

Breakbulk cargo experienced an overall year-over-year increase though, growing 8.8 percent to 7.8 million metric tons (MT) last year.

Despite the current challenges to cruise operations in Florida, the report concludes that the fundamentals of the cruise industry remain strong.

They believe the combination of pent-up demand and widespread vaccinations will result in a full, long-term recovery for the industry.

“With $3.3 billion in capital improvements at Florida’s seaports identified over the next five years, we expect our ports to continue playing a leading role in job creation and economic growth," FSTED Program Administrator Michael Rubin said.

Among the projects slated are rehabilitation and repairs for berths, construction of new cruise and cargo terminals, and channel and harbor deepening efforts.

Florida’s governor also announced that he plans to devote $250 million from the federal stimulus monies to the ports.

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