A Future Alternative; JaxPort Wants to Become No. 1 Shipping Hub for Liquefied Natural Gas

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein

Jacksonville's port has long ranked as the nation's busiest for exporting automobiles around the globe.

Now, JaxPort wants to stake the same claim regarding the fuel that's increasingly being used to fuel trucks, ships and trains - liquefied natural gas.

So far, no port has really taken the inside track on that export commodity.

But with production of natural gas soaring in the United States, the country is moving to a point at which natural gas is liquefied and can be sold for use abroad, which means putting it into ships.

"We're not always first, but maybe this is one time we can be first," said George Gabel, who heads the North Florida Logistics Advisory Group.

Jacksonville already will be at the cutting edge of using liquefied natural gas to power ships when Sea Star Line deploys LNG-powered cargo container ships. Those ships are under construction and will be delivered by the end of 2015 for voyages between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico.

JaxPort CEO Brian Taylor said using alternative fuels usually is the classic chicken-and-egg question of whether supplying the fuel first will result in people using it, or whether the users should come first followed by the ability to provide it.

"For us, the egg is already incubating," Taylor said of Sea Star's cargo container vessels.

At a meeting convened last week by the North Florida Logistics Advisory Group, Taylor said JaxPort is committed to ensuring Sea Star Line, which is a tenant at the Blount Island terminal, can refuel its ships with liquefied natural gas in Jacksonville. He said he expects other shipping lines will likewise be moving to natural gas in the future.

The next step would be construction of a terminal for storage of liquefied natural gas. Matt Jackson, vice president of liquefied natural gas development for Crowley Petroleum Services, said Jacksonville is "one of the hottest markets" being eyed as a hub for shipping natural gas. …