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From left to right: FMP president Christopher Smith of TOTE, vice president David Wood of Crowley Maritime, and treasurer Susan Allan of Overseas Shipholding Group, Inc. Image via Florida Maritime Partners.

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Smooth sailing for Florida Maritime Partnership

Florida has the second largest shipping industry in U.S.

Florida’s maritime industry, incredibly, sometimes flies under the radar. Almost as if 66,000 jobs all around the state can be taken for granted.

To ensure the interests of what is the second biggest state maritime industry in the United States of America are not neglected, the Florida Maritime Partnership continues to drum up support for the Sunshine State’s domestic maritime industry.

A recent week saw the group in Tallahassee, walking in tandem with the Florida Ports Council as they too worked the halls of the Capitol. 

The meetings came fast and furious with stalwarts in both the legislative and executive branches.

From the Senate, northeast Florida’s two leaders: Republican Sen. Aaron Bean and Audrey Gibson, leader of the Senate Democrats.

From the House, Reps. Wyman Duggan and Dane Eagle.

Duggan, like Bean and Gibson, are from northeast Florida. Eagle, of Lee County, is the House Majority Leader.

As well, the executive branch: Stephanie Kopelousos, the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff. 

These meetings, Smith said, were to “promote awareness of the domestic maritime industry.”

Of course, a hallmark of recent years in Tallahassee has been robust support for the industry, so awareness-raising visits have been key to many an initiative.

Smith was stoked about the FMP having a “seat at the table” at the EOC, something achieved in recent years and a validation of the agency’s unique status as a trade organization that becomes something more during hurricanes, such as close-call Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

The Maritime Industry contends that port security is national security. It definitely is job security. When you add up all sectors, it is responsible for 66,000 jobs. That’s a lot of families whose livelihood depends on the sea in the Sunshine State.

Prospects are solid, and continue to be so, as long as the oft-misunderstood Jones Act remains on the books.

The century-old legislation that requires goods shipped between U.S. ports to be transported on American owned, built, and staffed ships is big for Florida ports, freed from competition and potential security risks from foreign craft. Though it was under siege in recent years, awareness now seems to be high that for Florida, it’s the right move.

“Cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching,” the aforementioned Senate Minority Leader Gibson said at an FMP event in 2019. 

Her reference was unmistakable: the clanging noises of the increasingly active Jacksonville port (where a dredging project is all but $90M funded), likened to a cash register’s melodic tones.

Those noises can be heard every day of the year in Florida’s port sector. And the Florida Maritime Partnership is set to ensure that Tallahassee is aware of it as well.

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