JAXPORT CEO Discusses Port’s Growth and Success in a Changing Global Economy

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Nov 3, 2020 | Cargo Blog
5 MIN READ
Chelsea Kavanagh, JAXPORT Public Information Officer

By: Chelsea Kavanagh, Public Information Officer, JAXPORT

For more than a decade and a half, Eric Green has advocated for JAXPORT’s growth and the jobs and opportunity it creates for Northeast Florida.

Green joined JAXPORT in 2005 and was named CEO in 2017. Two years later, the JAXPORT Board of Directors unanimously voted to extend his contract. Under Green’s leadership, the port has set new cargo volume and revenue records, made significant progress on harbor deepening, and designed an innovative public-private partnership to build the port of the future.

During his tenure, Green has also seen the industry landscape change, from the ever-increasing size of container ships to tariffs and a global pandemic. Through it all, JAXPORT continues to see success and growth.

JAXPORT Magazine sat down with Green to discuss his vision for the future, and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

QUESTION: CORONAVIRUS CAUSED UNPRECEDENTED IMPACT ON THE GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN THIS YEAR. WHAT WILL THE LONG-TERM IMPACT LOOK LIKE?

I am very optimistic that the impact on our business will continue to be limited, due in large part to our diversification model.

JAXPORT is one of the most diversified ports in the country, and that is a very positive thing for us. As we’ve seen with tariffs and now the coronavirus, diversification—in both trade lanes and cargo types—helps lessen the impact of volatility in the global economy.

Our strategic location is also beneficial. I am bullish on the ability of the Southeast U.S. economy to rebound. As the economy opens up, we are as well positioned as anyone to see cargo volumes stabilize, because of the strong demand from shippers and BCOs looking to reach the growing Southeast U.S. market.

In addition, because Northeast Florida has ample available warehouse space, we are well-suited to accommodate the industry’s changing demands during this time.

[Editor’s Note: JAXPORT maintained steady container volumes and overall revenue during Fiscal Year 2020 despite the impact of coronavirus on the global supply chain. Read more here.]

Q: LAST YEAR WAS A RECORD YEAR FOR JAXPORT’S CONTAINER, AUTO, AND GENERAL CARGO VOLUMES. WHAT HAS CONTRIBUTED TO THIS SUCCESS?

On the container side, we continue to see success in our anchor trade lanes, Puerto Rico and Asia. JAXPORT’s Asian trade is up 55 percent over the last five years. In addition, our three Puerto Rican carriers, TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, Crowley and Trailer Bridge, maintain strong commitments to serving the island—while also continuing to expand—connecting Jacksonville to destinations throughout the Caribbean and beyond.

You can’t tell the story of JAXPORT’s growth without talking about autos. We are the nation’s second-busiest vehicle handling port and growing this business is an important part of our strategy as we look to the future.

The Southeast is the fastest-growing region in the nation for auto sales and our location in the heart of this in-demand market, combined with our highway and rail connections, creates unmatched efficiencies.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT SINCE JOINING JAXPORT?

Because I know how much it means to our customers and to our community, my proudest accomplishment is moving the harbor deepening project two years ahead of its original schedule.

We employed a creative solution by engaging a private partner, SSA Jacksonville, making this the first federal deepening project to include funding from a private business. Last year we broke ground on a state-of-the-art international container terminal that will be complete around the same time as our deepening project.

The terminal agreement includes more than $100 million in private investment and a $20 million grant from the federal government. These investments in our port speak to the opportunity that exists in Jacksonville—a clear sign that our port is a growing player in global trade on the U.S. East Coast.

If I could pick one more accomplishment, it would be our customer service award. Last year, readers of Logistics Management voted JAXPORT the top port in the nation for customer service. There is no higher honor than being recognized by your customers for doing good work.

Q: LET’S TALK CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FACING THE PORT.

There’s no doubt that our biggest challenge is also our single biggest opportunity. Providing adequate channel depth will always be a challenge until the Harbor Deepening project is complete.

Harbor Deepening puts us in the major leagues on the East Coast. Because of our strategic location, everyone wants to be in Jacksonville, which puts land at a premium, especially now that we’ve reached the halfway point of the deepening project. To meet the growing demand for space for containers and vehicles, we are currently looking to acquire land.

For containers, our long-term strategic plan calls for us to move about 2.5 million TEUs, that’s about a million more than last year’s record. We have capacity to reach 2.5 million today, but our goal is to get beyond that.

For vehicles, Jacksonville also has a lot of advantages that are driving increased demand. Again, it’s all about location. We are the closest port to some of the most populous areas in Florida with the ability and space to move a high volume of passenger automobiles and trucks.

For the industry as a whole, there is a lot of opportunity in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) space, and we are proud to be a global leader in the use of LNG as a clean marine fuel. There have been more than $1 billion in LNG investments in Jacksonville alone, and as the use of LNG expands globally, we are well-positioned to benefit from export opportunities.

Q: LOOKING AHEAD, WHERE DO YOU SEE JAXPORT IN THE NEXT DECADE?

The word that comes to mind is “Leader.” JAXPORT is a global leader in customer-focused transportation solutions, and we continue to build on that.

We are also one of the most efficient and diversified deepwater seaports on the U.S. East Coast. As the population of the Southeast U.S. grows and more of the industry learns about JAXPORT’s advantages, continued growth for our port will follow.

Q: GIVE US A PEEK BEHIND THE CURTAIN. ANYTHING NEW ON THE HORIZON?

We are currently looking for opportunities to grow our reach in South and Central America and believe that we are a good candidate for adding a European container service.

We are also exploring opportunities to add space for our auto business—because if we have it, we can fill it—as well as pursuing home port and port of call cruise opportunities by marketing JAXPORT to the cruise industry as a convenient drive-to-ship option.

Jacksonville is America’s Logistics Center for a reason. We have the distribution, the highway and rail connections, the service providers, efficient turn times, and two-way channel traffic. Combined with fast access to more than 70 million consumers, an important selling point in the age of e-commerce, Jacksonville has a lot to offer—and the industry is taking notice.

Originally published in the 2020 issue of JAXPORT Magazine