In conversation with: Port Everglades

Aerial view of ships at Port Everglades Fort Lauderdale Florida; photograph taken March 2014

Florida’s Port Everglades is one of a number of US ports calling for more cargo in a bid to alleviate the cargo imbalance choking up major west coast ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Tacoma.

Although seeing increases in container throughput in the past year – July 2021 saw the port break its historic high for July with 91,285 TEU – Everglades CEO Jonathan Daniels told PTI that the port is echoing the Florida Ports Council’s call for more shipping lines to divert cargo through its state ports.

The port complex is currently undergoing almost half a billion dollars of active construction, Daniels explained, spearheaded by the Southport Turning Notch project to create a new cargo berthing area.

The expansion area includes the arrival of three new Super Post-Panamax gantry cranes as part of Port Everglades’ Master/Vision Plan.

Adopted in 2020, the pandemic-driven surge in e-commerce demand may adjust investment priorities moving forward, Daniels said.

“We’re going to take a look at Phase Two and Phase Three [of the Master/Vision Plan]. Some of the investments that we’re looking at down the line and possibly being able to bring those forward into our next phase. Some of the things that may have been kept off now need to become really extreme priorities,” Daniels added.

As a landlord port, Everglades emphasises integration between all terminals when considering future investments of all kinds.

“When you take a look at the terminal operators that are looking at integrating brand new appointment systems… we’re looking at both active and passive technology implementation as the utilisation of everything from Transport Management Systems (TMS), Parking Management Systems (PMS), [and] camera systems that provide real-time information from the trucker’s perspective.”

Combined with the reconfiguration of primary roadways, additional queue lanes, the port aims to provide the chassis sector with applications to provide real-time movement trucks surrounding the port complex to iron out congestion and provide greater visibility to the supply chain.

24/7 potential?

The much-publicised crawl to 24/7 operations at Long Beach and Los Angeles has been lauded as a potential solution to getting boxes out of terminals and inland – however, challenges remain in having supply chain capacity to service round-the-clock operations.

Everglades is a 24/7 port in loading and offloading cargo from vessels, and terminals are extending working hours and gate times to accommodate greater flexibility for shippers, Daniels said.

If Everglades sees a rapid increase in cargo demand – and inland supply networks become bottlenecked – could 24/7 operations for cargo collection be a reality?

On having the dock workforce available, Daniels commented, “We are an ILA port, we are a Teamsters port, and we are a non-union port. So we have great union and labour harmony here.

“As of right now, it’s going to be up to the terminal operators. If we start hearing from the shippers that there’s a backlog and they need to increase the hours, we’re certainly going to talk to them in order to do it.”

“You have to have the additional supply of truckers – people talk about the human component of the truckers themselves, [but] it’s almost more of an issue that we just don’t have enough chassis in the system,” he lamented.

“There’s not enough equipment and not enough power to meet demand. If you don’t have distribution centres, warehouses that are open, it doesn’t work, because [chassis] are either going to wait here or they’re going to wait at the distribution centre.”

Honduras MoU – and digitising with emerging ports

On 5 October, the port, Honduras’ national port authority and port operator Operadora Portuaria Centroamericana (OPC) at Puerto Cortes Port agreed to enter into a deal to promote all-water shipping routes that serve both ports.

Between 30 September 2020 and 1 October 2021, nearly 75,000 TEU have moved between the two ports.

On the wider subject of the MoU, Daniels drew inspiration from his seven-year stint at the Mississippi Port of Gulfport, where the port collaborated with Santo Tomas de Castilla in Guatemala.

Dispatching containers from the Latin American port, the ports brought in a rapid-scan third-party company to install scanning equipment and readers, allowing real-time information sharing with customs and border protection in the United States on readings and measurements, skew numbers and all relevant information digitally.

“Once that [container] arrives in the US, it gets dropped onto a chassis that runs through a receiving terminal that reads equipment as long as the Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is in place and the equipment has not been tampered with,” Daniels explained.

The container is cleared by customs and immediately enters the stream of e-commerce, allowing yards to increase capacity without having to expand its lay-down area and add to yard congestion.

Through digitisation, the ports were able to expand capacity and work at a federal level to bring along the supply chain in building efficiencies.

“Those are the types of things we would like to be able to explore. It’s a joint government issue on the federal level, as well as port authority level. But the conversations can start at the port authority. That is something that we would certainly welcome the opportunity to take a look at within Latin America.”

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