Monday, August 25, 2008

Mayport to Jacksonville, "Take Your Port and Shove It"

Residents of Mayport, Florida have looked at plans proposed by the Jacksonville Port Authority, illustrated left, and taken a cue from Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, who famously opposed energy-producing wind farms off the coast of Massachusetts (and their vacation homes). When JPA port officials met last week with the Mayport Waterfront Partnership to reveal plans about the $60 million terminal—to include a parking garage for 1,400 vehicles, a drop-off area for cruisers, and a 2-story terminal building that can handle up to four cruise ships—locals reacted in senatorial fashion... Not In My Back Yard.

As reported by The Florida Times-Union, about 60 citizens showed up at the meeting and most voiced opposition to the cruise port being moved from its present location at Dames Point to the proposed site near Mayport, where JPA owns 8 acres. Claims range from the cruise terminal on the waterfront ruining the character of the village, established a mile west of the mouth of the St. Johns River in 1562 and home to shrimp boats and about 70 houses on 80 acres, to concerns about air and water pollution.

Officials argue that the Dames Point Bridge currently prevents most cruise lines from considering Jacksonville as a homeport because the majority of their ships are taller than the bridge's 175-foot clearance and that's why the JPA wants to move the cruise operation to Mayport. The present terminal has been considered "temporary" since it opened in 2003. The JPA also argues that the economic impact of moving the cruise ship terminal to Mayport should be considered before dismissing it because, "The direct payroll and the direct money spent for one ship amounts to about $15 million a year for the local economy."

Will the Jacksonville Port Authority prevail? Without more and larger ships, it could be a moot point, although in their web site Q&A section regarding a new terminal location they answer the question, "How likely is it that Jacksonville will be able to attract the industry's newer and larger ships?" by stating, "JAXPORT is optimistic that the cruise lines eventually will bring their newer ships here if a facility capable of handling them is provided. The major cruise lines have encouraged Jacksonville to build a terminal without height restrictions. If Jacksonville does not build a terminal east of the Dames Point Bridge, the newer ships cannot come."

However, just because you build it, that doesn't mean they will come. For proof, look at Houston's Bayport Cruise Complex, a new state-of-the-art port facility without a single ship committed to homeport there. Cruisers currently bypass it on their way to embark in Galveston, much as many pass through Jacksonville bound for Florida ports further south.

Learn more about cruising from Jacksonville from CruiseDiva.com.

2 comments:

Jeff Price said...

Hi Linda, Just came across your post. We think it's likely that cruise lines will establish service in Jacksonville - at a new terminal free of height restrictions - because of the great drive-to market that we serve. The current cruise ship that sails from JAXPORT sells at an average of 108 to 112 percent occupancy. And we've been working with the Mayport community to ensure that if a permanent terminal is built there, then it's something that can help the area and it's something the Mayport community can enjoy. Thanks, JP

Linda Coffman, AKA Cruise Diva said...

Thanks for the update, Jeff. I hope you get the new terminal, as well as bigger and newer ships! Jacksonville is an easy drive for us and we really like sailing from there.

Best, Linda