Global Logistics, Big Business
by Jeff Zbar
Global logistics is big business. The Miami Customs District accounted for $107 billion in merchandise in 2017, up from $65.9 billion in 2012. The district’s $10.6 billion trade surplus in 2017 made it one of the few customs districts nationally with a surplus. The area is home to hundreds of foreign trade zones.
MIA handled 2.3 million tons of international freight in 2018, which led all U.S. airports. Its 2.7 million square feet of cargo space includes the most refrigerated warehouse space at a U.S. airport. To the east, with deepwater access for large post-Panamax vessels arriving from China, multimodal connectivity, and a tunnel to speed container trucks to Miami International Airport and logistics facilities around the region, PortMiami’s continued infrastructure improvements are critical for servicing bigger ships faster and more efficiently, says Juan M. Kuryla, PortMiami director and CEO. The result is some $43 billion and over 334,000 jobs added annually to the South Florida economy, he says.
Approximately 15% of all U.S. seaborne trade by “TEU,” or the 20-foot equivalent unit shipping standard of measure, with Latin America and the Caribbean comes through Port Everglades, says Glenn Wiltshire, the port’s acting chief executive and port director. In all, international shipping out of the port covers 70 different trade lanes to reach 150 ports globally. By maximizing nearby property and opening new shipping opportunities, the 2,200-acre port’s master plan calls for continued investment — $1.6 billion over the next 15 years — to fuel international needs.
Though smaller than the ports to the south, the Port of Palm Beach generated approximately $5.3 billion in traffic and drove 2,488 direct jobs through cargo and cruise traffic. Whether importing rum from Barbados, or shipping more than 2,600 tons of Canadian french fries to the Caribbean, the port’s shipping and rail projects — including an $8 million rail upgrade — gives the port opportunity for growth.
In fact, trucking and rail services, the backbone of “intermodal” transport, are key components to all three ports’ growth plans. A 43-acre intermodal container transfer facility created in a public-private partnership between Port Everglades and Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) has improved the transfer of both domestic and international containers between ships and rail. More onsite logistics centers are planned for the coming year. Negotiations are ongoing with FEC to create a 300,000-sq.-ft. refrigerated facility to handle rail cars.
With its 52-foot deep-water channel and port tunnel, Port- Miami’s on-dock intermodal rail facility accommodates some of the largest ships coming through the Panama Canal.
As South Florida port executives have boasted in the past, direct connections between port facilities and the interstate highway system mean containers loaded on trucks can make it cross country without ever hitting a stoplight.
“South Florida enjoys a competitive advantage in trade and logistics to other markets in the U.S. as well as worldwide,” says Gary Goldfarb, chief strategy officer at Interport Logistics, a Miami-based supply chain management company and foreign trade zone. “We are a unique community with talent from many countries speaking many languages, and with an extensive expertise in trading. Our geography does not hurt either, being in the center of the Americas.”