While the Port of Miami was in the news spotlight on Friday, Port Everglades gained approval from the Broward County Commission earlier in the week to accelerate its growth under an updated master plan.
The moves come as East Coast ports expect a surge in container traffic after an expansion of the Panama Canal is completed in 2014. The arrival of megaships in Miami increases the likelihood of other ships getting displaced into the Fort Lauderdale port under scenarios previously outlined by trade experts.
"The Port Everglades Master/Vision Plan is a living document that we update regularly to take into account any changes in the global marketplace, market changes in South Florida and the southeastern United States, and trends in ocean shipping and cruising," Port Everglades Director Phil Allen said in a news release.
Port Everglades will accelerate its intermodal container transfer facility into the five-year master plan, instead of stringing it out over 10 years. (A crushed rock facility is deferred into the 10-year plan.)
The update also reflects the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' deepening and widening program, which will allow the port to deepen its channels to 50 feet from the current 42 feet. While the Port of Miami has funding, Port Everglades is still seeking to pull its plan together. That depth is critical to accommodate the deeper draft vessels that will be able to go through the Panama Canal after the widening is done.
In a recent interview, Allen said an upcoming overpass on Eller Drive will also allow rail service directly to Southport and the creation of a ship-to-rail transfer facility for cargo containers. Currently, trucks have to haul containers to the FEC Railway yard on Andrews Avenue in Fort Lauderdale.
The Port of Miami is also restoring its railway connection to the FEC's Hialeah rail yard with money provided under a federal stimulus program. With the canal's widening project under way, South Florida's ports want the big ships to stop here first and unload containers onto the FEC Railway for fast delivery all the way into the nation's heartland. (The FEC connects with some of the nation's biggest railways systems, such as Norfolk Southern and CSX.).
Currently, the biggest ships, called post-Panamax for their size, coming from Asia stop on the West Coast, and goods are shipped by rail across the country. Port Everglades is also making some environmental changes in a 16.5-acre upland area to offset 8 acres of wetlands that will be part of the new turning notch. The notch will provide four new cargo berths.
One challenge for the port is nearby Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, which is expanding its south runway to handle larger jets. Because the flight path goes over the Southport complex, the port has to deal with Federal Aviation Administration height restrictions on things like cranes.
One other interesting project in the master plan is a potential passenger ferry operation to Cuba. Port Everglades, which already ranks behind the Port of Miami as the world's second-busiest cruise port, is home to the world's two largest cruise ships, Royal Caribbean International's twin Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas.
The port's expansion has economic implications for all of South Florida. Its statistics show it generates an economic value of about $14 billion and impacts 143,000 jobs, including 10,000 people who work for companies that provide direct services to the port.