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(Courtesy of the Jacksonville Business Journal) – The Port of Jacksonville saw container volume and revenue fall in fiscal 2020 from a record-setting 2019, with the Covid-19 pandemic serving as a “speed bump” for the port.

Revenue fell 7% to $65.1 million while the number of containers dropped 4.5% to the equivalent of 1.28 million twenty-foot-long containers.

With the port coming off a record year in 2019 and dealing with the effects of the pandemic leaves the Jacksonville Port Authority optimistic about the numbers.

“All things considered, we felt we had a solid year, which is not normally something we say when you finish with your container volume below what we did the prior year,” said Robert Peek, the port’s director of sales and marketing. “Given the circumstance, we felt we had a solid year.”

For the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, the port also saw a declined in the number of vehicles it handled falling to 555,000 from 696,000 vehicles in 2019.

The number of military vehicles passing through in 2020 surged, from 2,242 to 8,396; however, it was not enough to offset the 21.3 percent decrease in other automobile vehicles.

The lower numbers are in line with the industry: According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Quarterly Services Survey, there was a significant trough in ‘deep sea, coastal, and Great Lakes water transportation’ during the first two quarters of 2020, with revenue across the industry falling 32.4%.

The Port of Savannah, Jaxport’s competitor to the north, saw its container volume barely fall, with the port handling 4.44 million twenty-foot equivalent container units in the fiscal year that ended in June, down less than 1% compared to fiscal 2019.

Although the virus shaped much of 2020, the port said it is optimistic going into the end of the year, with Covid-19 having served as what Peek dubbed a reverse speed bump.

“There is a general feeling within the industry and within the port that the volumes should stay steady at least for the next few months into the holiday season and into next year,” Peek told the Business Journal.

Container cargo for September 2020, the final month of the 2020 fiscal year, was 118,811 TEUs, a 23.2 percent increase from September 2019 and only a 2.5 percent decrease from September 2018.

One area that hasn’t rebounded: Jaxport’s cruise business.

No cruise has left from the River City since March and that will continue for at least a few more months.

The Centers for Disease Control allowed cruses in the country to resume on Nov. 1 — after following strict guidelines — however, Carnival Cruise Line, the only operator out of Jacksonville, has indicated it will not resume service until at least 2021.

Photo courtesy of JAXPORT.