JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The general manager of JaxPort's biggest tenant says failure to dredge the St. Johns River will have a 'detrimental' impact on Jacksonville's port.
The demand for larger container cargo ships is becoming the international norm.
Bigger ships need for deeper channels.
"Without the Deepwater project, it is a serious and critical concern," said TraPac's general manager Dennis Kelly.
Kelly operates TraPac, the first international shipping company in Jacksonville, and after his company invested $300 million to be located at JaxPort, TraPac put the port on the global map.
"It really has opened up a new marketplace for the port and for the region," said Kelly.
JaxPort's biggest tenant is in jeopardy of shipping out of northeast Florida if the Deepwater project isn't approved by Congress soon.
TraPac is only using about 20 percent of the terminal's capacity. And the company is taking a big hit financially.
A bipartisan team of local and federal leaders gathered Friday at Talleyrand to reassure stakeholders like Kelly the plan to deepen the St. Johns River will move forward in Washington.
Action News asked Kelly what happens if the channel isn't deepened to 47 feet from its current 40-foot mark.
"Well, it could be detrimental to not only TraPac/MOL but also JaxPort," said Kelly. "That's why it's so critical that we have the shortest possible time frame to get Deepwater."
Kelly says the deadline is 2015, when the Panama Canal is completed and the requirement for international shipping is bigger ships and deeper channels than what JaxPort currently offers.
Congress did authorize JaxPort to spend non-federal dollars, about $5 million, on pre-engineering and design for the dredging project.
JaxPort officials expect the feds to pay that money back after the project is approved.