Over the past year, economic recessions have forced Russians to eat less chicken, Brazilians to buy less clothes and Puerto Ricans to use less wood.
And their cutbacks have begun to affect the Jacksonville Port Authority. For the first time in at least six years, port officials expect to see a drop in the amount of cargo shipped in and out of the city's three marine terminals this fiscal year, which ends Oct. 31.
"It's the cyclical nature of the international economy," said Rick Ferrin, vice president of the marine division for the port. "Things will swing back up."
Ferrin said as much to the port authority board at its monthly meeting earlier this week. He explained the reasons behind a recent drop in cargo traffic, but reassured the board that he was confident things would rebound.
For years, ports worldwide have used a measuring stick called 20-foot equivalent units (TEU) to get a handle on how much cargo they handle. Most containers used in Jacksonville today are almost 50 feet long, so one container is equal to about 2 1/2 TEUs.
The port handled more than 771,000 TEUs in 1999, a number that put them in the national top 10, and only 1,000 behind the Port of Miami. Cargo shipped from Jacksonville ranged from frozen chickens to sports-utility vehicles to corn syrup. Total TEUs at the port have climbed about 40 percent since 1994.
That total, though, is expected to drop to about 710,000 this year. Ferrin cited several reasons, most stemming from the economy in other countries not being as prosperous as the United States.
"The Brazilian economy dropped through the floor," Ferrin said, "[and] subsequently their money will not buy as much as it was buying."
That set off a chain reaction of several shipping lines leaving Jacksonville. First, Navieras de Puerto Rico, an international shipping line with a heavy concentration in Jacksonville, canceled its entire South American service. The company blamed the low value of the Brazilian dollar and the impact that had on other South American countries. …