Floridians across the Sunshine State have felt the negative effects beyond health issues of COVID-19. Some were immediate – particularly as some businesses were forced to close immediately, thus causing far too many Floridians to lose jobs. There have been many longer-term effects, which have created severe disruptions to normal business patterns, especially to our product supply chains.
The true depths of COVID’s economic impacts are now truly coming to light. These are among the many reasons Gov. Ron DeSantis has made ports and cruises a focal point of his efforts to reset the Florida economy.
With more than 1,350 miles of coastline, Florida is a top maritime trade state and home to the world’s leading cruise ports. Yet Florida’s seaports experienced declines consistent with the overall trend for 2020. As many as 169,000 jobs were lost, and nearly $23 billion that would have contributed to Florida’s economy was lost – primarily because cruise ships were sidelined for more than 16 months. Keep in mind the onshore businesses who serve as the suppliers for the goods and materials loaded on these cruise ships before they sail. These businesses were also hard hit during this stoppage.
A new report recently released by the Florida Seaports Transportation and Economic Development Council (FSTED) provides an in-depth data review of COVID-19’s impact, as well as forthcoming opportunities for Florida’s 15 seaports. While most individual seaports experienced declines, there are bright spots on the horizon.
While the FSTED report, which draws on 2020 data, shows a decrease in waterborne trade value, it also shows that not all ports suffered the same declines. Port Manatee, Port Tampa Bay and Port Panama City saw increases in containerized cargo volume.
According to Florida Ports Council President and CEO Michael Rubin, Florida’s seaports are resilient and are expected to see a near-complete recovery in 2021. Florida’s 15 seaports have identified $3.3 billion in capital improvements over the next five years, and are expected to continue playing a leading role in job creation and economic growth.
Despite trade value being down, our regional and country trading partners continued making ports of call at Florida seaports throughout the pandemic. South and Central America and the Caribbean remained as Florida’s top trade partner region, and Japan topped China for the second year in a row as Florida’s leading import trade partner country.
As Florida’s ports continue navigating from the pandemic, they are focused on the $3.3 billion in capital improvements they’ll make over the next five years. Of those improvements, 70.7 percent is slated for Atlantic coast seaports, with the remaining 29.4 percent dedicated for Gulf coast seaports.
The foundation of Florida’s seaport industry is strong, and quickly working to rebound. With more and more cruise ships setting sail again, cruising will soon be back on track as well. In addition, with cruises reopening, we will see the benefits of pre-cruise and after cruise revenues as tourists extend their vacations to savor the wonders of our great state.
Dr. Ed Moore served for many years as the president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) and has served in both the legislative and executive branches of Florida government. Prior to ICUF, Dr. Moore was staff director for Policy, for Worker’s Compensation, for Medical Liability and for Public Safety and Security in the Florida House of Representatives. Dr. Moore also worked in the private sector for 21 years and has experience in areas ranging from multi-state commercial development and utilities, public safety, mental health, corrections, education at all levels, to higher education. Moore served as the executive director of RESET Florida to help the state’s economy recover from the pandemic.
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