Florida: Clear Sailing
From exceptional ports to state-of-the-art e-commerce services, Florida’s logistics assets encompass everything under the sun.
Florida is called the Sunshine State, but for logistics providers, it’s the water that really counts. And the importance of the water is fully appreciated by those charged with keeping Florida’s waterway advantages, well, fluid.
In addition to its waterway advantages, the state’s ideal location and extraordinary infrastructure—including its multi-modal transportation systems—figure prominently into Florida’s logistics assets. And certainly the services that have grown up around these physical attributes, including fulfillment and distribution, contribute mightily to the state’s position as a logistics superstar.
No wonder, then, that companies around the world choose Florida as the site of their national and international headquarters. Numerous international firms base key facilities in Florida to take advantage of its easy access to global markets.
The state’s favorable business tax structure, government policies, and competitive costs make planning for future growth easy, notes Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership that serves as the state’s principal economic development engine. Florida consistently ranks among the best states for business, thanks to its pro-business state tax policies, competitive cost of doing business, and streamlined regulatory environment. The state is proud of its welcoming business climate and competitive advantages.
Florida boasts one of the world’s most extensive multi-modal transportation systems in the world, featuring international airports, deepwater shipping ports, extensive highway and rail networks, and multiple hubs that allow for high-speed data transmission from around the United States to Europe, Latin America, and Africa.
As a result, Florida ranks fourth among all states in foreign direct investment. More than 9.5 million workers serve as testimony to the quality of programs public and private institutions offer to continually feed the talent pipeline. Add to all of that a financial and cultural commitment to keep sailing into an ever-improving future.
"Since 2012, Florida seaports, along with our federal and state partners, have invested more than $2 billion in seaport infrastructure, resulting in an economic value of more than $117 billion," says Doug Wheeler, president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council.
"Jobs generated by ports have grown 51% in the same amount of time," he adds.
Sum of all Ports
The Florida Ports Council provides leadership for Florida’s 14 deepwater seaports through a collective voice in the areas of data and research, state and federal advocacy, and marketing and communications. The council holds several annual meetings for the purpose of conducting business and discussing industry trends and conditions.
Florida is the only state with seaports on two vital U.S. water shipping lanes—the Atlantic and the Gulf. In addition, Florida’s location allows for cost-efficient access to the Caribbean and South America.
Florida also is the country’s third-largest state, with almost 21 million residents. When coupled with nearly 126 million visitors annually, Florida is one of the largest consumer markets in the United States.
"Florida seaports provide the most cost-efficient means to access this population and visitor market, as well as other discretionary markets in the United States and Latin America," Wheeler notes, adding the state’s business-friendly tax and policy environment makes Florida one of the top places to locate or expand domestic and international businesses.
"Further, efficient distribution of goods around Florida and into discretionary markets in neighboring states and nearby countries has led to the growth of imported goods coming into Florida ports from Asia, Europe, and other countries," Wheeler says. "The state’s ability to distribute goods into the Florida market attracts shippers, shipping lines, and beneficial cargo owners."
Many capital projects are outlined in the council’s newly released Pathway to Prosperity: The 2019-2023 Five-Year Florida Seaport Mission Plan. These projects will automate processes, decrease costs, add capacity for both cargo and passengers, and expedite movement with an emphasis on using as few resources as possible, says Wheeler.
For example, Port Canaveral is focusing on its $150-million Cruise Terminal 3—the largest construction project in the port’s history. It is also building North Cargo Berth 8 and renovating Cruise Terminals 8 and 10.
Port Everglades just finished upgrading Cruise Terminal 25. It is modernizing Petroleum Slip 1, working with petroleum partners that are developing improved offloading infrastructure. It continues to invest in containerization, complementing the new 43-acre Intermodal Container Transfer Facility with the Southport Turning Notch Extension and Crane Rail Infrastructure project (set to lengthen the deepwater turn-around area for cargo ships to 2,400 feet and allow for up to five new cargo berths and new super post-Panamax gantry cranes). It also will deepen its channel to 48 feet.
The Port of Fernandina, which successfully transitioned port operations from Kinder Morgan to Worldwide Terminals Fernandina in February 2018, is working on a number of up-sizing projects to better serve large-scale vessels and customers: a berth deepening, a 1,000-foot pier extension, and a 500,000-square-foot on-dock warehouse.
The Port of Fort Pierce is moving forward on plans to rehabilitate the Fisherman’s Wharf bulkhead and the Black Pearl Boat Ramp. It plans a packing house demolition and dock apron rehabilitation, and will enhance vehicular access with improvements to the Fisherman’s Wharf road.
JAXPORT‘s 47-foot harbor deepening is underway. The port has undertaken a major facility modernization project to enhance capacity for post-Panamax vessels. Some of the larger projects on its five-year horizon are a Berth 33/34 rehabilitation, and readying Blount Island for a major tenant expansion.
Further improvements are set for the Port of Palm Beach, Port of Key West, Port Manatee, Port St. Pete, and Port Tampa Bay. As the closest port to Florida’s largest and fastest-growing market—the Tampa Bay/Orlando I-4 Corridor—Port Tampa Bay can call its geographic location its greatest advantage. The Central Florida region is home to almost half of the state’s population, and welcomes the majority of tourists who visit Florida every year.
Central Florida Jewel
"The I-4 Corridor has the largest concentration of distribution centers in Florida, which serve the entire state from this central location," says Wade Elliott, Port Tampa Bay’s vice president of business development. "Our close proximity allows importers and exporters to make multiple round-trip deliveries per day between the port and the DCs, resulting in significant container drayage cost savings."
The biggest new development at Port Tampa Bay is the addition of three new direct Asia weekly services since the beginning of 2019, including COSCO’s Gulf of Mexico Express, CMA CGM’s PEX3, and a recently announced new service by ZIM, MSC, and Maersk.
"Effectively, we have created an alternative supply chain solution into the heart of Florida’s largest and fastest-growing region," says Raul Alfonso, the port’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer. "It’s an area that has been under-served until these new Asia-Gulf services were added."
Especially noteworthy is that these new services reflect a shift in trade routes, recognizing the expanding markets and cargo growth in Florida and the U.S. Gulf of Mexico region. Many of these importers are seeing the advantages of rerouting and greater efficiencies, with new and existing customers expanding their DC capacity in the I-4 Corridor.
Port Tampa Bay also is home to Foreign Trade Zone 79, which helps companies involved in importing, exporting, manufacturing, and distribution to reduce their costs and improve their efficiency.
Together with its terminal operator partner Ports America, Port Tampa Bay is aggressively building out its infrastructure—including the expansion of paved storage, new berths, additional gantry cranes, and equipment, as well as new on-dock transload facilities—to stay ahead of growing demand.
Port Tampa Bay’s facilities and experience accommodate a diverse mix of cargoes, from containers and refrigerated commodities to break-bulk, roll-on/roll-off and heavy lift (with necessary storage, laydown, crane capacity, etc.), and immediate highway and rail connections.
Last-mile issues are not a concern at Port Tampa Bay. "We have a dedicated truck ramp directly outside the gate, connecting the Port to I-4 (east/west) and I-75 (north/south)," Elliott says.
Another major infrastructure expansion was the recent opening of Port Logistics Refrigerated Services’ new state-of the-art refrigerated warehouse. The Tampa Bay region is Florida’s hub for the grocery/food and beverage sector and is located in the heart of Florida’s agriculture industry. With on-site dedicated fumigation services, this 135,000-square-foot cold storage facility has 6,348 racked pallet positions, 148 reefer plugs, on-site USDA and CBP inspection areas, as well as a CBP AG Specialists lab.
In the port’s 2018 State of the Port report, Port of Tampa Bay President and CEO Paul Anderson summarizes the port’s progress: "Not only did Port Tampa Bay experience its second consecutive record revenue year, but we began to see a convergence of several initiatives including major infrastructure projects, real estate agreements, and new cargoes.
"In fiscal year 2018, our record operating revenue of more than $59 million represented a double-digit increase of 11% and was attributed to all primary revenue streams including cargo categories as well as growth in industrial maritime real estate development and our cruise business which, for the first time in our history, surpassed one million passengers."
In its 2019 report, the port will have even more to cheer as the Big Bend Channel Improvement project was completed earlier this year. The project, more than a dozen years in the making, effectively brought together five public-private partnership entities (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Transportation, Tampa Electric, Mosaic, and Port Tampa Bay) to deepen and widen the channel at Port Redwing for larger ships.
"These larger ships will bring more cargo capacity that ultimately translates into jobs, economic impact, and generational impact for years to come," Anderson says.
Yet another illustration of Florida’s ahead-of-the-curve logistics advantages is its responsiveness to the growing importance of e-commerce.
E-commerce is no longer a trend but a well-established distribution channel. In order for brands to earn client loyalty, they need to fulfill orders from their omnichannels in the timeframe expected. Ameriworld Fulfillment, a Miami-based logistics company that specializes in drop-ship and e-commerce, understands the industry requirements and is able to handle a high daily volume of orders.
Ameriworld has been in the product distribution business, also known as fulfillment, since its inception in 2003, affording the company much-needed expertise in the ever-evolving e-commerce world. Julian Rubio, Ameriworld’s CEO, says he considers the company’s key advantages to be its human capital and innovation.
With its controlled temperature area, expiration dates, and lot numbers control, Ameriworld effectively serves many industries. These include cosmetics, as well as the footwear, toy, housewares, supplements, hardware, and fast-fashion industries, among others that benefit from the company’s robust reverse logistics system.
"We understand our clients’ success hinges on a fast and efficient fulfillment and distribution chain that is flexible and adaptive to the rapid changes in the technological and digital world," says Business Development Director Cloudya Esther.
"We already have a highly efficient paperless operation that specializes in drop-ship and e-commerce orders," she adds. "We also have our own in-house IT department that allows us to integrate with our clients’ ERP systems as well as all shopping carts. The advent of e-commerce has transformed logistics, and we have been working with it since its beginnings. We are excited for what the future holds."
Alongside its online and digital services, Ameriworld still offers its original "full package" service through which it provides companies office space and back-office services (accounting, order management, payroll, etc.). David Truzman, Ameriworld’s CFO, explains that this solution is especially helpful for companies looking to lower their overhead or foreign companies starting up in the U.S. market.
IT Director Fidel Gonzalez is currently developing a system for more efficient packing that will enable the company to process one package every three seconds. "Ameriworld is always at the forefront of technology and we are ready and poised to adopt, implement, and advance our services for the benefit and success of our clients and to satisfy consumer demand for frictionless next-day shipping," he says.
Because of its innovation, technology investment, and expertise, Ameriworld is a major player in South Florida’s e-commerce fulfillment logistics.
Florida’s assets combine to give the state its competitive edge. Merchandise trade valued at $153.3 billion flowed through Florida’s airports and seaports in 2018, making the state one of the world’s leaders in international trade, Enterprise Florida reports.
The state’s 12 public universities, six major medical schools, and numerous private colleges and universities work closely with the business community to build programs that reflect the needs of Florida’s industries.
Finally, there is the quality of life—hard to define, but you know it when you experience it—that sets Florida apart. Work-life balance is increasingly important to employers and the workforce alike. Florida is known for great weather, recreation, and culture, as well as an affordable cost of living that allows businesses and residents to enjoy it all.
There is an often-heard refrain among Floridians of all stripes: "Who wouldn’t want to live here?" The question, really more of a statement, is heard on the beach and in the boardroom, on the loading dock and at the pier, in the fulfillment center and at the amusement park.
And logistics professionals recite the line perhaps more than anyone. Why would they not? In the logistics sphere, they know Florida’s forecast is always sunny.