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First Coast

Putnam port effort gets boost in Legislature

Damian Dovarganes
AP file

The Florida House has unanimously approved a plan that could be a step toward adding an area along the St. Johns River in Putnam County to the state port system.

The measure (SB 1038), which is ready to go to Gov. Ron DeSantis, would give Putnam County until July 1, 2024, to apply for a grant through the Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development Council to pay for a feasibility study about establishing a port in Palatka.

The proposal would also give the county a seat on the council, which is made up of port representatives from across the state. The future of Putnam County’s membership on the council would be contingent on the results of the study.

The county has been working to expand a barge port and accompanying industrial area along the river, with the facilities about 60 miles from the port in Jacksonville. The Senate voted 37-1 to pass the bill last month.

Friday’s vote came as DeSantis announced that Singapore-based Sea-Lead Shipping Pte Ltd., is looking to link the Jacksonville port, JAXPORT, with four Asian locations to avoid congestion on the Pacific Coast.

The company, in announcing the first of four ships will sail from Nansha, China, on Monday, said the weekly service “will provide shippers with a reliable and timely service that avoids the port congestion that is hampering efficient service at many other ports.”