Rail helps PortMiami gain containerized cargo

On-dock intermodal rail helped PortMiami as it posted an increase of 15% in containerized cargo movements last fiscal year.

The port handled a total of 1,007,800 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, of cargo in the year that ended Sept. 30, as Asian trade rose with multiple weekly service through three of the world’s four major cargo alliances.

Having spent more than $1 billion in capital infrastructure, the seaport now offers super post-panamax gantry cranes that can service cargo up to 22 containers wide and up to nine containers above deck and up to 11 below.

Part of the investment, upwards of $50 million, was the on-dock intermodal rail service, featuring three tracks each 3,000 feet long for the Florida East Coast Railway connection to the port, which was restored in 2013 after years of inactivity when past port directors said rail service to the port was outmoded and unnecessary.

Commodities carried range from garments to waste paper to refrigerated cargo.

The railway “currently moves about 45,000 containers annually at PortMiami and has the available capacity to handle up to 225,000 boxes yearly,” Jim Hertwig, the railway’s president and CEO, said in a statement last month.

As of July 28, the rail service had transported 8,420 cargo container units northbound from the port and 10,257 southbound into the port. The rail service was also moving empty containers for major shipping lines.

“We found a niche in the market,” Robert Navarro, port director for the railway, told Miami Today last summer. “Not only do we move loads, we will move empty containers for the [shipping] lines – what they call repositioning.”

Shipping lines move their empty containers, or empties, from one port to another. The port’s rail service has taken containers as far as California.

The rail service was operating seven days a week except for major holidays, Mr. Navarro said.

Establishing on-dock intermodal rail service has opened new markets for both the port and the railway, allowing containers at Port Miami to be loaded directly onto waiting trains, with the railway delivering truck-like service via its Cocoa terminal in Brevard County to the north and FEC Highway Services, the railway’s trucking arm.

The railway and the port together offer two-day delivery within the Southeast and say they can reach 70% of the US population within four days.

“Today we are well positioned to support vessels capable of hauling more than 10,000 TEUs and will continue to promote multi-modal shipping and support global trade into and out of South Florida alongside our partners at PortMiami,” Mr. Hertwig said.

“More than 10% of the TEUs handled at PortMiami are now delivered to or depart from the docks via a [Florida East Coast Railways] train,” Mr. Hertwig said, “an amount that could reach 25% when the larger post-panamax vessels call at PortMiami.”

The port is now welcoming larger vessels, said Port Director Juan M. Kuryla, as the only major global trade hub south of Virginia capable of handling the larger post-panamax ships.

Mr. Navarro said he’s done business with all major shipping lines but would like to add more cargo volume.

The rail service can carry up to 240 40-foot-equivalent-units on its 9,000 feet of track. When a train leaves the port, it rolls straight across the PortMiami bridge, crosses Biscayne Boulevard, then goes west to the Hialeah Rail Yard, where it is connected to the national rail system.

Said Mr. Kuryla, “Growth of international trade and commerce at PortMiami is only getting stronger.”


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