The Port Thinks Big – and Bigger – and Bigger

The Port of Fernandina has completed its first draft of a 10-year master plan. It’s very long, and very technical, but here are a few key points to focus on when it comes up for a public hearing Jan. 19:

  • Bulk cargo is changing and will grow. This is cargo that often is transported to the port by truck.
  • Aggregates (mostly gravel) are on the rise, and will need to be stored in silos at the port.
  • Fertilizers will be on the rise. They will need to be stored under cover. They can be volatile so will need to be protected.
  • Lumber and plywood from South America (mostly Brazil) also will be on the rise.
  • Containers are bigger now, and so are the ships that carry them. Nobody is making the smaller ships anymore. The port must adapt.
  • Which means it will need to increase the length of its primary dock.
  • And means a great deal of very expensive dredging must occur to create turnaround room for the larger ships.
  • But an opportunity has presented itself to the port: cruise ships. Not the monsters you see at dock in Miami, but smaller ones like the American Cruise Lines ships that occasionally tie up at the city marina.
  • But what to do with the passengers if Fernandina becomes a port of call?
  • The port folks think they should set up and manage a transportation infrastructure system to get passengers five blocks from the dock to Centre Street and back and park the vehicles on lots the port owns outside its boundaries on Third St.
  • They also think they will have to build a cruise terminal on land they don’t completely own.
  • There will be a lot of changes inside the port as new turnarounds for trucks are constructed.
  • The port is looking at new truck patterns, including one the neighborhood already hates: creating an in-out route on Dade and Escambia streets. Problem #1 Escambia is a fragile road and will need beefing up. Problem #2 Escambia crosses the Escambia Slough, which is a small but protected wetland. Problem #3 The neighbors hate the idea of being roped into a loop of truck traffic. The port clings to this idea, even though there are other alternatives.
  • Several of the port’s expansive ideas require it to either use property it owns outside its boundaries or partner with other owners to create terminals, truck turnarounds and so forth.
  • The best solutions to the port’s growth ambitions lie far from the present port location in brand-new (or at least conceptualized) industrial parks off the island. Rail connections are critical. If cargo can be easily transferred by rail, there will be less truck traffic on the roads of Amelia Island.
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Concerned FBer
Concerned FBer(@brian-crane)
1 year ago

this needs to be squashed immediately. It will ruin an island that already has seen too many changes. Let’s not make a Tybee island II.

Danny Fullwood
Danny Fullwood (@guest_66531)
1 year ago
Reply to  Concerned FBer


DAVE LOTT(@dave-l)
1 year ago

There will continue to be this conflict between the Port and City residents due to the landlocked Port. The only way to increase business is to increase traffic (whether truck, rail or ship) and footprint. The FB port will never be able to compete with the ports of Jacksonville, Brunswick or Savannah. Let them continue to work on a niche market that can often be highly profitable.The claim that bigger is needed to survive is bogus as there are many examples in the transportation industry of successful “smaller” firms.

Robert S. Warner, Jr.
Robert S. Warner, Jr. (@guest_66529)
1 year ago
Reply to  DAVE LOTT

Excellent comment.

Genece Minshew
Genece Minshew (@guest_66521)
1 year ago

The cruise ships being considered are not small 200 passenger ships but mid size ships with 700 to 1250 passengers and 800 crew members. Let’s get our facts straight.

William Smith
William Smith (@guest_66525)
1 year ago
Reply to  Genece Minshew

In these days of 6000 passenger ships, those ARE small ships. There is nothing here to support anything bigger, and never will be. Most crew do not leave the ships when in port; their jobs continue on-board. And I’m guessing on any given day there are more tourists around than 1 small ship would carry. And the ship’s passengers don’t add to our parking problems.

Danny Fullwood
Danny Fullwood (@guest_66530)
1 year ago
Reply to  Genece Minshew

Genece, regardless of what you think the facts are, we have not considered any ships over 500 passengers and have no plans to do that. Also, a cruise ship of 1000 passengers does not have 800 crew members.
As someone running for a leadership position on our city commission you should stop listening to rumors and misinformation and know what the “facts” are.

Robert Prager
Robert Prager (@guest_66536)
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Phillips

Oceania Cruises includes Fernandina Beach on it’s itineraries for 2023-2024 aboard the Vista with 1200 passengers and 800 crew. It does not say if they will dock or ferry guests from the Vista to shore. The Vista is 791 feet and a new vessel.

Anne Price
Anne Price (@guest_66523)
1 year ago

Yikes. has anyone really looked at the short- and long-term impacts on infrastructure, traffic, noises, air pollution, water pollution, etc.? the economic benefits of cruise ships and similar are often exaggerated and the onslaught of passengers and cargo can result in unintended consequences. Has one quantified the benefits of these proposals?

Kevin B
Kevin B(@kevin-b)
1 year ago
Reply to  Anne Price

I agree 100% on your concerns. How does this 10 year vision enhance the natural beauty of the FB community and its residents? Do you want more truck traffic, noise, pollution rolling down A1A? The vision seems counterproductive to the recent Travel & Leisure article referring to Amelia Island as “A Florida Gem, that remains quiet and peaceful even as the state explodes in popularity.” Concerned residents should attend the public meeting in Jan 2023.

Sherry Harrell
Sherry Harrell(@sherry-harrell)
1 year ago

Years ago, there was talk of having a rail system set up for the pulp wood trucks to unload their logs off of the island, so that it will cut down on truck traffic. The train cars would take the logs to the port by rail. While this isn’t directly tied to the port, why didn’t this idea come to fruition?

DAVE LOTT(@dave-l)
1 year ago
Reply to  Sherry Harrell

Sherry, my recollection is that they piloted the program for a number of months. The offload yard was beside the RR tracks parallel to US 17 just north of the FDOT station before you get to I-95. The logs were destined to the mill, not the Port. I’m not sure the report of the pilot was ever made public, but the conclusion was that it did not represent a cost savings since the operation would require an additional transfer of the load. In addition there was the concern about an increase in the frequency of the trains (since their length is limited) coming through downtown and cutting off access across Front Street.

Lucy Peistrup
Lucy Peistrup(@lucyp74)
1 year ago
Reply to  Sherry Harrell

They tried it in a VERY small scale operation on highway 17. While it worked GREAT for those who were chosen to participate in it, the infrastructure and cost required to create the actual project was deemed not feasible.

Tammi Kosack
Tammi Kosack(@tammi-kosack)
1 year ago

The Ocean Highway Port Authority (OHPA) will have a public meeting, tentatively scheduled for January 26th, to hear citizen concerns. It has been stated by Chair Danny Fulwood that he wants to work with the community and if there is strong opposition to certain elements, they will be removed from the master plan.

It will be important for citizens to show up if you want to let your voice be heard. Due to the landlocked location of the Port, many of the proposed ideas for growth will affect not just the immediate city, but everyone from I-95, down 200, over the bridge, down 8th St. and through the residential neighborhood to the Port.

Many, many things to consider here, both short and long term.

Robert S. Warner, Jr.
Robert S. Warner, Jr. (@guest_66528)
1 year ago

Think movement to the port by barge traffic.

Bob Virtue
Bob Virtue (@guest_66534)
1 year ago

I saw no information on anticipated tax revenues for the city/county. I pay my fair share as a resident. What can we expect from a bigger and bigger port? What are the benefits to the residents of the city/county?

Jim O'Malley
Jim O'Malley (@guest_66535)
1 year ago

I have an idea! Let’s build a 4 lane overpass over Center Street to funnel all port traffic and rail. That way, it won’t disturb the tourists or downtown residents. Then put a fertilizer storage silo where Brett’s Waterway Cafe is now. Then we can pave Talbot Island for the largest cruise ship terminal on the east coast. Think BIG Fernandina!

Lawrence Tipton
Lawrence Tipton(@latipton)
1 year ago

Should have used a picture of the actual Port instead of the Marina!

Robert S. Warner, Jr.
Robert S. Warner, Jr. (@guest_66540)
1 year ago

Think barges.

Julie Ferreira
Julie Ferreira(@julie-ferreira)
1 year ago

Robert, barges would go through the marshes and effect
the whole eco-system. Careful what you ask for.

Christine (@guest_66748)
1 year ago

Please write to City Commissioners to STOP the plan for cruise ships at the Port. 800 to 1200 tourists on a regular basis will overrun the island and downtown. They will not be staying in hotels or eating meals as they do that on the ship. WE AS TAXPAYERS already foot the large bill for facilities and resources like police, fire, road maintenance, beach maintenance, etc. Please email the City Commissioners:
[email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected], [email protected]; [email protected]

Mayor Bradley Bean [email protected]
Vice Mayor David Sturges [email protected]
Commissioner James Antun [email protected]
Commissioner Darron Ayscue [email protected]
Commissioner Chip Ross [email protected]

Townies (@guest_66957)
1 year ago

Rather than expand the port, how about taxing it so heavily that they close it down? Does it add so much to the city economy? How big will be enough? Who profits from the proposed growth? Why does it need to grow? So someone who doesn’t live here and has no vested interest in this city can get richer? Two words: not interested.