Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hanjin Went from Whisper to Welcome; Port Observers Say Jacksonville's Pact with the Asian Shipping Line Is Excellent News for the Region

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hanjin Went from Whisper to Welcome; Port Observers Say Jacksonville's Pact with the Asian Shipping Line Is Excellent News for the Region

Article excerpt

Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS

The idea that another Asian shipping line would set up shop in Jacksonville floated around the waterfront almost from the day that the Jacksonville Port Authority signed a deal with its first Asian carrier.

Whispers on the waves aren't the same as containers on the dock - but those hopes took a step toward becoming reality with Thursday morning's announcement that Hanjin Shipping Co. Ltd. will open a terminal in Jacksonville by 2011.

Combined with the business soon to be generated by the terminal under construction at Dames Point for Japan-based Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd, the Hanjin announcement could propel the First Coast into the ranks of major port cities.

"It's a big deal," said Peter Leach, senior editor at the Journal of Commerce, where he writes about ocean transportation, ports and logistics. "Jacksonville looks to be positioning itself as a major contender on the East Coast."

The numbers themselves are somewhat staggering: The terminal will encompass 170 acres, cost $360 million, handle up to 1 million containers a year and generate 6,000 jobs - all slightly more than the long-anticipated Mitsui terminal.

"From a container shipping perspective, this essentially triples our volume," said Ron Baker, chief financial officer of the port. "It triples the impact, triples the job growth. At the end of the day, it's just a win for the city."

Jacksonville has benefited from a confluence of events, particularly the expansion of the Panama Canal, congestion on the West Coast, rising surface-transportation prices and land crunches at other East Coast ports.

"Cargo has been growing faster to the East Coast than the West Coast," said Anne Marie Kappel, vice president of the World Shipping Council. "There's a need to add capacity system-wide."

Jacksonville was particularly attractive because of its proximity to the Panama Canal, which is under expansion. When that project is completed in 2015, more and larger ships will be able to transverse the canal, with Jacksonville being their first port of call once they get through. …

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