Gov. Ron DeSantis Calls on Ocean Carriers to Divert Ships to Florida

Courtesy Gov. Ron DeSantis

Published Oct 24, 2021 6:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

Florida's governor is asking ocean carriers to consider sending their backlogged West Coast boxships to his state's eastern seaboard, where there is plenty of capacity to berth big ships and offload cargo. 

"We have to make sure people can go Christmas shopping as normal. We have to make sure that all the necessities are there," Gov. Ron DeSantis said. "And if it’s because ships are sitting off the coast somewhere else, and they can be rerouted here, and we can get all those shelves stocked, then we want to be a part of that solution."

The governor made this appeal during a visit to Jaxport, the port of Jacksonville, which is the state's busiest container port. Jaxport has not had any container ship backlog since the beginning of the pandemic, according to port officials. DeSantis also noted spare capacity at the state's smaller box ports, including Port Tampa Bay, Port Everglades and Port Panama City. 

The governor's office hopes to attract West Coast traffic via the Panama Canal, but existing East Coast service strings may be easier targets. Jaxport is already winning business from the Port of Savannah, the busiest container port in the U.S. Southeast (and the fourth-busiest in the nation). Savannah is experiencing serious difficulties with congestion - so serious that two lines have dropped calls at the port and diverted vessels to other locations, including Jaxport and the Port of Charleston.

Like other major seaports, Savannah says that it is encountering a fundamental change in demand and inbound freight volume. 

"We have seen this transition from just-in-time in supply chains to just-in-case, and that is significantly changing our environment," Georgia Ports Authority executive director Griff Lynch told the Wall Street Journal earlier this month. "Because of all this extra freight being imported, it's creating a backlog from the ship side to the dock side to warehouses and across the whole supply chain."