(Nov. 26) Hoping to benefit from growing world trade and to remain competitive with other ports, Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is seeking public comment on its plan to expand port operations.

The expansion involves deepening channels and adding longer and larger docks to handle larger container ships.

A public hearing for the proposed upgrades is scheduled for Dec. 4 in Fort Lauderdale.

Ellen Kennedy, the port’s manager of corporate and community relations, said the port-wide improvements do not contain any upgrades that would specifically benefit cold storage and produce shipments.

Being able to handle larger container ships, however, should help produce container imports, Kennedy said.

“This (expansion plan) is important because it gives us a road map for the future, so we can plan for handling these bigger vessels, plan for more vessels and provide more jobs for the community,” Kennedy said.

The $20 billion expansion is scheduled to occur through improvements involved in a five-year “master plan” and 10- and 20-year vision plans or phases.

The improvements should help the port handle the larger ships holding 6,600 TEU or 20-foot equivalent units, Ken-nedy said. The port currently handles 4,000 TEU container ships. One TEU is the amount of cargo that can be car-ried in a 20-foot shipping container.

20 MILLION TONS OF PRODUCE

In 2006, fresh produce imports accounted for 650,000 tons or 3.2% of the port’s total 20.3 million tons of container business.

The port expects to increase its total container business to 26.2 million tons by 2020, Kennedy said.

Port Everglades, Florida’s leading container port, is ranked 11th nationally in its container handling volume, Ken-nedy said.

Expanding cruise ship business is also important to the port, she said. The ships, Kennedy said, load a lot of produce
from the port’s cold storage facilities.

Pero Vegetable Co. LLC, Delray Beach, Fla., uses Port Everglades for importing Honduran cucumbers and canta-loupe, Panamanian pineapple and other Latin American produce.

“Every year we’re getting more involved with imports,” said Scott Seddon, a Pero marketing and advertising special-ist.

“As land gets tighter here in south Florida, we will see that trend continue with us and other growers. From an overall standpoint, the improvements would be a great thing for the produce industry.”

EXPANSION WELCOMED

Seddon said proposed improvements that add space could help get more boats unloaded more efficiently.

Central American Produce Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla., has for years imported containers of vegetables and tropicals
from Port Everglades, as well as the Port of Miami.

“As far as the offshore deal goes, any expansion where we can get some more options to bring more product in, it’s definitely a plus for the business,” said Michael Warren, president.

The grower-shipper-importer recently relocated warehousing and shipping of its Latin American melons from the Port of Tampa, Tampa, Fla., to the Port of Cape Canaveral at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Central American made the change to be closer to its northern customers, Warren said.

Warren said Central American hasn’t experienced any delays at any of the ports.

Port Everglades considers expansion
A public hearing for proposed upgrades to attract international trade is scheduled for Dec. 4 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.