Cruise ship headaches continue at Fernandina Port
Image via Worldwide Terminals.

ocean voyager
The OHPA and Nassau Terminals are trying to negotiate a deal with dock owner WestRock.

The Port of Fernandina’s attempt to beef up its cruise ship activity continues to run into problems.

One issue is that the Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA), as of its last meeting, is still trying to work out details with WestRock, which owns the dock. As of a late February email from one of its lawyers, the company isn’t granting cruise ship docking waivers and asked the port to stop.

“It’s my understanding that the WestRock objections were that we could not use their property that we acquired from them for any port of the … cruise ship terminal, or parking, or any kind of facility for a cruise ship,” OHPA Chairman Danny Fullwood said at the meeting. “Well, we’re not doing that. That’s all on the east side of the railroad tracks, that particular parcel of property. Where we use the cruise ship is on the west side of the railroad tracks at the dock. So, we’re not violating, I feel, the requirements that we not use that terminal.”

Tossing another wrench into the works is that the law firm representing OHPA also represents WestRock, which OHPA attorney Patrick Krechowski reminded the board before explaining his interpretation.

“I haven’t verified this with my own eyeballs, but it’s my understanding that cruise ship activities take place on parcels that were not conveyed to OHPA from WestRock,” Krechowski said.

Nassau Terminals CEO Chris Ragucci, who pitched the cruise agreement to the board originally, also advised prudence.

“I’ve been cautioned not to discuss our actual legal research on this publicly, but I’m being advised by our counsel that unless and until you get that affirmative green light from WestRock, it still feels … we could be sued,” Ragucci said. “You stated recently that WestRock threatened to sue you if we do this, and if they sue you, they’ll sue us. We’re in it together. That’s the last thing we want.”

There are two more cruise ship calls at the port this spring, and then there is a run of calls in the fall that may or may not happen depending on how the situation works out.

“We can hopefully get this thing sorted out during the summer, and then they’ve got five calls in the fall, starting, I believe, in September,” Ragucci said.

Presently, the Ocean Voyager vessel from American Queen Voyages anchors in the Amelia River and another boat has to ferry passengers across. Amelia River Cruises does the ferrying.

“They were using (Amelia River Cruises proprietor) Kevin McCarthy to unload passengers and take them up to city docks, at the marina,” Fullwood said. “He called and we had a long conversation about that. He cannot afford to do that. He said he’s losing business catering to those ships.”

However, OHPA and Nassau Terminals both committed to work something out to keep the ships coming.

“I think (the cruises) are good for us, good for the community,” Fullwood said.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook:

One comment

  • Aned Relheod

    March 29, 2022 at 2:14 pm

    I cannot understand why some person(s) in our local government cannot see the benefit of cruise ships coming to the port for a lot of the businesses in downtown Fernandina Beach. Hundreds of people get off of those ships and shop/eat downtown. I believe that there are a few “Pot Stirrers & Bullies” in our local government that are miserable human beings, that just don’t seem to care that the small businesses downtown lose that potential business because they are selfish and have the need to be “right”!

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