OHPA transitions with new port operator, departure of Administrative Officer Joanna Cason

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
June 14, 2018 1:00 p.m.

UPDATED June 15–new ship arrival time

Senator Aaron Bean presents OHPA with ceremonial check for $2M to fund a new port crane. Pictured from l-r:  OHPA Chair Adam Salzburg (Dist. 3); Commissioner Danny Fullwood (Dist. 2), Board Attorney Clyde Davis, Commissioner Robert Sturgess (Dist. 1),  Commissioner Carrol Franklin (Dist, 4), and Senator Aaron Bean.  Absent from the presentation:  State Representative Cord Byrd and OHPA Commissioner (Dist. 5) Lissa Braddock.
OHPA Chair Adam Salzburg (r) presents resolution of appreciation to Senator Bean.

The Nassau County Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA) is moving on to a new chapter in its history with a new port operator and what appear to be increased shipping opportunities for the Port of Fernandina.   Thanks to the Florida Legislature, the Port has received $2M for the purchase of a new crane.  State Senator Aaron Bean was on hand to receive an OHPA resolution of appreciation at the June 13, 2018 OHPA meeting for his successful lobbying work in securing the funds.  State Representative Cord Byrd, who was also thanked in the resolution, was not able to attend.

Christopher Ragucci, who heads up Worldwide Terminals Fernandina, LLC, the new port operator, reported that shippers are returning to the Port of Fernandina, and contracts with new shippers will bring in more business starting next month. 

MV OWL

The 33,045 Gross Tonnage bulk carrier, MV Owl, the biggest ship to visit the Port in some time, was due to dock June 14, 2018, with a shipment of Scandinavian oats.  After unloading in Fernandina, the MV Owl will head to New Orleans and another Gulf port with additional deliveries of goods.

6-15-2018 Update:  Due to rough weather in the North Atlantic, MV OWL is now due to arrive during high tide at the Port of Fernandina Tuesday, June 19 around 3:30 p.m.

Ragucci reported to OHPA at their June 13, 2018 regular meeting that the uptick in shipping has underscored the need for a new channel survey and some emergency maintenance dredging to insure the channel depth at 33-38 feet.  While the channel depth is adequate for the most part, Ragucci noted that there are high spots that need dredging to make sure that the larger ships can be accommodated.

Port maintenance is an issue, due to the age of the facility and its components, some of which date to the inception of the port in 1985.  Ragucci said that the fendering contract has been completed and asked that OHPA release $200K for payment.  He anticipates purchasing the new crane in August with delivery in September.

OHPA will draw up a new contract for port operations within the next few months.  Commissioners expressed a desire to incorporate new language requiring the operator to notify OHPA of port security breaches, any receipt of dangerous cargo, and any matter that could result in potential lawsuits against the port.  They also expressed a desire to receive inspection reports and notices of deficiencies, along with explanations and remedies.

OHPA Chair Salzburg presents Joanna Cason with a plaque to commemorate her service to the board.

OHPA seeks new Administrative Office Manager

OHPA acknowledged with regret the resignation of Administrative Office Manager Joanna Cason after 7.5 years of service.  OHPA Chair Adam Salzburg presented Cason with a plaque in recognition of her service to OHPA and expressed the board’s heartfelt appreciation for her work.  He told Cason how much he will personally miss her.  Cason, who worked for the Nassau County Clerk of Courts for many years, expressed her appreciation for the recognition and the opportunity to work with the board. She indicated that the time has come for her to devote more time to pursuing her personal interests and enjoying time with her family.

Adam Salzburg and Joanna Cason

Considerable discussion followed regarding the interview and hiring process for Cason’s replacement. Pierre LaPorte, the OHPA Treasurer, reported that 20 applications for the part-time position have been received. The applications have not been ranked. Over the next few weeks OHPA commissioners will contact applicants individually and hold interviews.  The commissioners will convene to rank their top candidates at a workshop the end of the month.

Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.

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