After its first full year in operation, Florida East Coast Railway's Intermodal Container Transfer Facility (ICTF) in Fort Lauderdale is heralded as a complete success. And it's in perfect position to take on added business when larger cargo ships begin moving through the Panama Canal.
The facility next to Port Everglades accounts for a 26 percent increase in port volume, according to James R. Hertwig, FECR president and CEO.
"This is a terrific milestone that validates the investment made by FECR, Port Everglades, the state of Florida and Broward County. One that will have long-lasting benefits for the community by reducing road congestion and greenhouse gas emissions," Hertwig said. "We look forward to continued growth at the ICTF as the port adds new docks and cranes, and expands its harbor with deeper and wider channels."
In a model public-private partnership, FECR built the ICTF on 43 acres provided by Broward County's Port Everglades. The ICTF, which was completed in 18 months and opened in July 2014, is used to transfer international intermodal containers arriving or departing by ship -- both north-south and east-west trade lanes -- as well as domestic containers and trailers with cargo moving to and from South Florida.
Prior to the opening of this facility, such containers were transported by truck to and from Port Everglades to off-port rail terminals in Fort Lauderdale and Hialeah.
"The ICTF ensures that Port Everglades is competitive with other U.S. East Coast gateways, and, most importantly, gives South Florida a cost and time-to-market advantage over many of these gateways," said Steve Cernak, Port Everglades' chief executive and port director.
Cargo moves through Port Everglades to and from Atlanta and Charlotte in two days, and Nashville and Memphis in three days. FECR's direct connection to the nation's Class 1 rail network allows for service to 70 percent of the U.S. population within four days, FECR says.
Additionally, having empty 53-foot domestic containers and trailers adjacent to the port provides more opportunities to trans-load import cargo from ocean containers to domestic containers for inland rail transport. This results in more domestic containers moving north as loads, instead of empties, increasing the efficiency of the intermodal network.
The railway calls the ICTF a win-win. It is expected to reduce congestion on interstate highways and local roadways because loading and offloading cargo will take place at the port as opposed to offsite facilities. As a result, says the railway, air emissions will be reduced by diverting an estimated 180,000 trucks from the roads by 2027.