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First Coast

JAXPORT Signs Agreement With Puerto Rico’s Port To Strengthen Maritime Partnership

JAXPORT is already the No. 1 U.S. port for trade with Puerto Rico. A new agreement signed Monday seeks to affirm and boost that relationship.

Puerto Rico Ports Authority Executive Director Joel A. Pizá Batizand and JAXPORT CEO Eric Green signed the new memorandum of understanding, with a focus on strengthening the partnership in the coming years and decades.

Robert Peek is JAXPORT’s general manager of business development. He told WJCT News that the economic impact between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico’s maritime trade approaches a billion dollars a year.

“If you add up all the - for example - salaries of all the dock workers who load and unload the cargo, of the employees, of the ocean carriers - that is the shipping lines that have the ships that going back and forth between the two markets - all the truckers, all the back office work; there's a tremendous network of business that has grown up in Northeast Florida and on the island that surrounds and supports this very important trade. So it's a tremendous economic boost for all of Northeast Florida and for the island of Puerto Rico,” Peek said.

In terms of the products shipped to Puerto Rico, Peek said just about anything you can find in a department store is sent to the island from Jacksonville, while Puerto Rico exports products including pharmaceuticals, soft drinks and spirits.

"We do tend to send a lot more from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico," said Peek, referring to JAXPORT's trade surplus with Puerto Rico.

Maritime trade between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico was first established in the 1950s. Today, JAXPORT handles nearly 90% of all sea trade between Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland.

“Florida is proud to be the second home to many Puerto Ricans, and this new agreement will build on the special relationship between the Sunshine State and our island neighbor. I look forward to the positive economic impacts this agreement will have on JAXPORT, the city of Jacksonville and Puerto Rico,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis in an email sent to WJCT News.

Peek said JAXPORT trades with more than 70 countries around the world and has relationships with countries on every continent except Antarctica.

Puerto Rico is JAXPORT’s largest trading partner. Other large trading partners include Brazil and China.

Crowley, TOTE Maritime and Trailer Bridge – which are all headquartered in Jacksonville – ship goods to Puerto Rico and had dignitaries on hand for Monday’s signing ceremony.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault also attended the ceremony.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.