Florida’s ports are open, but is anyone coming?

While the backlog at ports along the West Coast of the United states has garnered the most attention in recent weeks, just about every major port in the United states, from Los Angeles to Savanah is experiencing a backlog of some sort.

Florida, with its access to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean has positioned itself as an alternative to backlogs at other ports, with Governor Ron DeSantis promising financial incentives to attract ships to skip the backlogs and come to Florida.

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While at least two east coast ships have rerouted to Florida ports including Jacksonville and Everglades, the state has seen no traffic from the pacific, and experts say that’s unlikely to change.

READ: ‘We have capacity’: DeSantis pitches for ships to head to Florida amid bottleneck at LA port

”The logistics is part of it, but it is also the storage and the distribution and the sorting operations,” said Christopher Tang, a professor at the UCLA Anderson School. “Some of the smaller ships that are anchored on the west coast can go through the Panama Canal, but the bigger ships cannot go through, but the problem then is time and cost.”

Tang notes that it would take up to two weeks for a ship to sail to Florida from the west coast, assuming it is small enough to fit through the Panama Canal. Even then, he says, the problems continue as it would be cost prohibitive for the ship to make the return voyage empty.

“The ship is like an airplane, if they are not flying, they are not making any money,” says Tang. “We ship most of our exports to Asia out of the west coast and if the ship is empty, the ship is losing money.”

READ: Port Canaveral celebrates rising economic tide in the cruise ship industry

Adding to the problems for Florida is a problem that is not unique to the state: a lack of truck drivers to move the cargo once its off the ship.

“We have been at a crisis point for over a decade,” says Alix Miller the CEO of the Florida Trucking Association. “We lost a lot of drivers who were close to retirement age, this is really a baby boomer industry and one of the reasons that we lack new drivers is that you have to be 21 to drive across state lines.”

Miller estimates the nation needs another 80-thosuand truck drivers to meet demand. Her group, and others, have been advocating for Congress to lower the age limit for interstate trucking from 21 to 18.

READ: Port Canaveral to receive more than $72 million in federal funds to help recover from pandemic

“You can fly a plane or fight for your country, but you can’t drive a truck from Tallahassee to Thomasville, Georgia,” says Miller.

This week Florida Congressman Brian Mast (R FL 18) introduced a bill that would lower the age to 18, however, it has not been brought up for a vote.

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