Port of Palm Beach A Centennial History

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Port of Palm Beach

A Centennial History By Richard Westlund

Since its modest beginning in 1915, the Port of Palm Beach has become a key player in South Florida's diverse economy. With its ability to handle diverse types of cargo and modern cruise ships, the port contributes to the prosperity of the region’s agriculture, manufacturing, energy, distribution and tourism sectors, while providing thousands of jobs for Palm Beach County families. The port also serves as a lifeline to the Caribbean, with tenants whose shipping operations serve the islands from Freeport to St. Lucia. With the continued strength of the economies of the Caribbean and Latin America, the Port of Palm Beach is well positioned for the future. Other positive trends include the expansion of the Panama Canal, which will accelerate the ow of goods from Asia, and improved U.S. relations with Cuba, since the port was once the largest trade gateway to that Caribbean nation. As the Port of Palm Beach celebrates its centennial, the Board of Commissioners, management team, tenants and other partners work as a team to meet the evolving transportation needs of the region. That commitment to service will provide a solid foundation for the port's success in the next 100 years.

Port of Palm Beach

A Centennial History By Richard Westlund



Acknowledgements The Port of Palm Beach gratefully acknowledges the support of the editorial and design team at Passport Publications & Media Corporation, which produced this book; the Historical Society of Palm Beach County, which provided articles and photos for this publication; and the many writers and editors of Gateway Magazine, whose contributions over the decades provided a framework for this centennial history.

Passport Publications & Media Corporation 1555 Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, Suite 1550 West Palm Beach, Florida 33401 (561) 472-8778 www.PassportPublications.com Copyright Š 2015 Port of Palm Beach All Rights Reserved No part of this book shall be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by an information or retrieval system, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles and reviews, without the prior written consent of the publisher. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Library of Congress Control Number: 2015914384 ISBN-10: 0692524290 ISBN-13: 978-0-692-52429-9 First printing: 2015 Printed in the United States of America This publication was produced using available information. The publisher regrets it cannot assume responsibility for errors or omissions.

Overlooking the Port of Palm Beach and Peanut Island, 2000.





Palm Beach Harbor Pilots Association’s Captain Greg Turner.



Table of Contents

6 8 12 24 26 38 46 54 60 70 78

Celebrating Our Centennial

Supporting Our Region’s Economy

The Early Years 1915-1945 Recognizing the Port’s Harbor Pilots Expanding in the Postwar Era 1945-1959 Diversifying the Port’s Operations 1960-1969 Serving the Sugar Industry 1970-1979 Attracting the Cruise Industry 1980-1989 Changing the Skyline 1990-99 Entering the 21st Century 2000-2014 The Next 100 Years 100th ANNIVERSARY


Celebrating Our Centennial As the longest serving port commissioner, I have watched the port grow from a small operation with minimal business, making less than $1 million a year to one that now boasts three equally strong sectors: cargo, cruise and real estate. Over the years, the Port of Palm Beach has learned to strengthen its value through diversification and operational efficiencies, resulting in a record year in 2014 that enjoyed revenues in excess of $15 million. We have used our 100 years wisely, learning lessons from every change in market and political shift, and adjusting accordingly to create value for our tenants and community. And for this, among many other reasons, I am proud to be serving as chairman during a year of such historic and economic importance.

Blair J. Ciklin Chairman, Board of Commissioners Port of Palm Beach



Within these pages, you will learn that the Port of Palm Beach has been an economic driver of Palm Beach County and beyond since day one. It helped facilitate the development of Palm Beach in the late 1910s and early ‘20s, was the largest trading gateway to Cuba before the embargo, and currently serves as the shipping hub for Florida sugar that is exported around the world.

More than 2,850 people are employed by the Port of Palm Beach and its tenants, making it one of the largest employers in Palm Beach County. And through the contribution of more than $185 million in business revenue and $17.5 million in tenant-contributed state and local annual tax revenue, it is one of the largest economic engines in South Florida. While this year marks a celebration of our successes, I also look upon it as a chance to discuss its future. The Port of Palm Beach is dedicated to supporting its surrounding communities through economic development, now and for the years to come. And it is through continuing our steps of diversified and sustainable growth that we will move with purpose through the next 100 years. Thank you for taking the time to learn about our history and celebrate our centennial anniversary. We look forward to showing you what has been, what is, and what will be at the Port of Palm Beach. Blair J. Ciklin Chairman, Board of Commissioners Port of Palm Beach

Port operations in the early 1950s.



Supporting Our Region’s Economy As executive director of the Port of Palm Beach, I feel privileged to be a part of this organization as it reaches a milestone as noteworthy and nostalgic as our centennial anniversary. I came to the Port of Palm Beach in 2008, and in these short seven years, have come to know and love what it means to grow without expanding, build without rising, and support an entire economic region through a 162-acre operation in Riviera Beach, Florida. As you look through this book, you will begin with images from 100 years ago, when the Lake Worth Inlet District reached the ocean through a fourfoot deep channel. You’ll see our growth through our first cruise ship, the Mary Weems, our original passenger terminal, and the Florida Havana Railroad Car Ferry – a reminder that the Port of Palm Beach was once the largest trade gateway to Cuba.

Manuel Almira Executive Director Port of Palm Beach



You’ll travel through our infrastructure improvement initiatives, including the building of Skypass Bridge and construction of our second and third slips. Then of course, you’ll hear about our booms, our busts and how we navigated through the years to reach new horizons. This story shows the dedication, determination and commitment of the people who work at this port. There are generations of stevedores, sailors and even accountants

here. Family businesses are flourishing alongside employees who call each other family, because through the years we have all weathered the same storms and celebrations, together at the Port of Palm Beach. Just as 2015 marks our centennial milestone, it also marks the gateway to our future. These past two years have shown just what the Port of Palm Beach can and will be within the next 100 years. Through our most recent infrastructure improvements, we now maintain one of the most efficient cargo operations in the nation, moving containers from train and truck to ship and sea within 24 hours. We serve as the lifeline to the Caribbean, with tenants that maintain just-in-time shipping operations to the islands from Freeport to St. Lucia. And, we are currently hosting our largest cruise ship to date, a vessel that is breaking passenger and revenue records for the port. It is with great pleasure I introduce these feats in conjunction with our centennial book. Please take the time to look, learn and celebrate 100 years of development with the Port of Palm Beach. Please enjoy our commemorative book. Manuel Almira Executive Director Port of Palm Beach The Mary Weems enters the Port of Palm Beach for the first time on January 3, 1926.



Port of Palm Beach, 2015.



2015 Port of Palm Beach Board of Commissioners

Blair J. Ciklin Chairman

Wayne M. Richards Vice Chairman

Jean L. Enright Secretary/Treasurer

George E. Mastics Commissioner

Peyton W. McArthur Commissioner



First port document marking the special act of the Legislature creating the Lake Worth Inlet District, which would later become the Port of Palm Beach District.



Chapter 1

The Early Years 1915-1945 In the early years of the 20th century, Florida lawmakers realized that improving the natural inlets on the shoreline could help the state reach its potential in agriculture, tourism and manufacturing. In order to provide funding that would support the state’s trade and commercial growth, the Legislature charted a number of taxing areas to be known as “inlet districts,” extending from St. Augustine to Miami. One of these was the Lake Worth Inlet District, which was well situated to become a future gateway for domestic and international cargo and passenger traffic. An initial survey by civil engineers Fred Franck, Frank Weller and Captain I.D. Hiscock – at a cost of just $200 – identified a prime location on the “old inlet” at the southern end of today’s Riviera Beach. That site would require only about a half mile of dredging, creating a safe and convenient harbor for ships traveling along Florida’s East Coast. A 1913 article in the Palm Beach Post pointed out the reasons for creating a new port – many of which still apply in the 21st century. “Lake Worth can become the best harbor on the coast of Florida; the one nearest the regular steamship routes; one of the most strategic ones possible for the use of the U.S. Navy; one as near or nearer than any other to the Panama Canal; one in direct touch with Lake Okeechobee by the deepest and most direct canal; one with a big territory to draw from both by rail and canal; and finally, one that can be made 25-30 feet deep or more at less expense than another other in Florida.”





Northward view of Singer Island from a Curtis airplane.

Chapter 1

However, the fledgling port had a far more modest start with an initial channel just 150 feet wide and four feet deep at low water, leading to a relatively small turning basin. A harbor and dock facility were also constructed in 1915, creating a stopover location for coastal traffic and a new outlet for agricultural products and other merchandise heading south to Miami. In August 1915, voters in the Lake Worth Inlet District elected the first port commissioners: Dr. H.C. Hood, G.L. Gray and E.E. Geer. In 1916, Gray retired and R.P. Paddison was elected, then replaced two years later by C.H. Ellis. In 1919 Geer resigned and E.S. Fowler took his seat on the board, and George W. Jonas succeeded Dr. Hood, who had died. Although the original charter called for the election of three commissioners in a special district election, the law was eventually amended so the district commissioners were elected every four years in the general election as their terms expired.

First drawing of Lake Worth Inlet project by George B. Hills, engineer manager for Isham Randolph & Co. Consulting Engineers.

Soon after building the first dock in 1915, the Palm Beach community recognized the port’s potential for commercial activity. “A ship inlet from the ocean to the natural harbor at West Palm Beach will provide better shipping facilities for enormous quantities of produce from the ‘Glades and cheaper freight rates for growers and merchants.” said commissioner Geer in a 1917 article in the Palm Beach Post. He added that farmers had come to the commission asking for help in moving their produce to market and told him they could fill 5,000 crates a week.



Barge facilitates channel dredge.

Dredge progress 1921.

“I believe that with this inlet, we have a chance of making West Palm Beach one of the liveliest places on the East Coast,” Geer said. “When we provide access to outside markets for our farmers, we will step up several rounds on the ladder of progressiveness. With the inlet a success, it does not take a very great stretch of imagination to see our deck lined with freight and passenger boats and the great railroad systems of the south extending their lines this way. Commercially, it will put West Palm Beach on the map, and in time we will see it as one of the liveliest business centers of the south.” Geer’s prediction soon began to come true. After dredging the initial channel and building the first dock, it became clear that a deeper and



Lake Worth Inlet, post-1923.

wider inlet channel was needed. In 1920, Captain A.S. Anderson, who later became a commissioner, signed a contract to deepen the inlet to 12 feet. In 1923 the inlet was deepened again to 16 feet, and the turning basin was enlarged. One of the byproducts of the dredging project was the creation of a new island in the lake, first called Inlet Island and today known as Peanut Island. As part of this improvement project, a bulkhead, slip and terminal facilities were added, bringing railroad and highway connections right to the growing port. Two jetties were later added to protect the entrance channel. All these improvements were completed by 1925 at a cost of $3.5 million, all paid by local businesses and civic leaders.

Chapter 1

Construction progress of first port terminal, 1928-1929.

A milestone occurred in December 1925 when the Lake Chelan, the first steamer carrying cargo, arrived to establish regular service. Next came the passenger steamer Mary Weems, which made 13 trips to New York between 1926 and 1927, and a Canadian ship, SS New Northland, which carried passengers to Nassau and Havana. During the early 1920s, the commissioners hired General George Goethals, renowned worldwide for his engineering work on the Panama Canal, to consult on the development of the port. At that time, the inlet district had a surplus of $3.5 million in the bank, the equivalent of $49.7 million today. However, the state’s real estate bubble of the mid ‘20s soon burst. On September 17,

1928, a deadly hurricane with winds of 145+ miles per hour struck Palm Beach County, devastating the port, destroying more than 1,700 homes and causing 2,500 deaths when its storm surge pushed Lake Okeechobee over its southern banks, flooding hundreds of acres in the Glades region. A year later, the 1929 stock crash on Wall Street led to the Great Depression, which crippled the nation’s economy and resulted in the layoffs of millions of workers in the 1930s. As that decade began, the port’s only remaining tenant was Merchants and Miners, a company that operated a weekly freight service along the coast. Its warehouse was the only building still standing at the port.



Yacht docked at completed cargo warehouse, post-1929.



Chapter 1

Construction crews laying below-ground support beams for on-dock rail.

The commissioners negotiated with Merchants and Miners and received a $60,000 loan to complete the construction of Slip 1 and rebuild the port’s warehouses. That loan was a turning point, as the commissioners kept the port alive so it could continue to support the region’s economy. It should also be noted that during the Prohibition era (1920-1933), local “rumrunners” kept the region well supplied with alcohol by smuggling cases of beer, wine and liquor from The Bahamas into the Lake Worth area.



Original blueprint for infrastructure expansion project, provided to the port by Fugate & Brockway, Eng.'s in 1936.



Chapter 1

In 1935, the Lake Worth Inlet District was renamed the Port of Palm Beach District to avoid confusion with a special drainage district bearing the same name. That year its charter was amended to allow employment of a salaried manager. Until then, one of the three elected commissioners served as port manager. However, a commissioner could still serve as manager if the others agreed – a condition that remained until 1953 when the rules were changed to prohibit serving in both roles. In 1935 the U.S. government took over maintenance of the jetties and channel, deepening it to 20 feet and expanding the turning basin again. Using $35,000 in local funds ($6.1 million today), the commission approved dredging a side channel in 1937 that extended south along the west shore of Palm Beach and provided a safe anchorage for deepdraft recreational yachts.



After Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, the U.S. declared war on Japan and Germany, and entered World War II. Florida soon housed a string of bases for training soldiers and pilots – many of whom returned to make their homes in the Sunshine State after the war. Meanwhile, some Florida ports boomed from increased trade in agricultural commodities from Latin America. But that was not the case at the Port of Palm Beach.

Lumber to be used for building in the Bahamas.



Chapter 1

Nosa King, early 1930s.

Yacht moored at Port of Palm Beach, early 1930s.

Geographically unsuited as a shipment point for war goods bound for European or Pacific theaters of war, the port could not accommodate the new, larger freighters of the era. Meanwhile, German U-boats prowled the shipping channels along the Gulf Stream just off the Florida coast during much of 1942, until U.S. Navy vessels and aircraft were able to make the sea lanes safe for commerce in the last years of the war.



Captain Earl Menges

Captain William G. Roden, Jr.

Captain Greg Turner

Captain George A. Fizell

Recognizing the Port’s Harbor Pilots Navigating ships in and out of the Port of Palm Beach, the skilled members of the Palm Beach Harbor Pilots’ Association are an integral part of the port’s livelihood. The pilots’ knowledge of the currents, depths, and navigational hazards in Lake Worth Inlet keep cargo and passenger ships, as well as pleasure boaters out of harm’s way and facilitate the daily vessel navigation and docking or berthing for port tenants. Since its early beginnings, the harbor pilots have grown their fleet from a converted torpedoed lifeboat, to U.S. Navy whaleboats, to a fleet of specially designed pilot boats built to withstand contact with large ships in heavy seas. The first pilot was Earl Menges who while piloting vessels, became a light attendant in 1929. At the time, there were only 3 navigational lights in Lake Worth Inlet and one of them went out. He inquired around to see who was in charge of the lights but nobody knew, so he fixed it himself. He wrote the Lighthouse Service asking who he should report to should it happen again and they responded “Report to yourself, you’re on the payroll now.” He took the job and was paid $10 a month. The job grew to



65 lights covering St. Lucie to Boynton Inlet. He would inspect every light once a month aboard his open deck pilot boat-buoy tender. His career as a harbor pilot started in much the same manner as he became a light attendant. Since Menges was the resident engineer for the initial dredging project of Lake Worth Inlet, and a local sailor, he was asked to go aboard and guide the early cargo and passenger ships of the 1920s through the port's channel and its currents. Starting in 1927, he served in the role as Harbor Pilot at the Port of Palm Beach for the next 39 years. Shortly after the end of World War II in 1946, a young George W. Fizell was walking along the docks in his naval dungarees and came across Menges. Menges asked Fizell if he could help run him out to an awaiting freighter in the pilot boat being that there was no boat driver available. Being a boatswain’s mate, Fizell had no problem maneuvering the converted Navy whaleboat and thus his career began as pilot boat driver. Soon after, Menges told Fizell he would need to start training him as a Pilot because more manpower was needed as trade with Cuba increased. Fizell’s career with the Palm Beach Pilots lasted 42 years.

Captains Matthew Rigby and Reid Hansen

Captain Greg Turner

Captain William D. Messer

Beginning with Earl Menges, more than 10 men have served as members of Palm Beach Harbor Pilots’ Association, including the five who serve today. There were others who were given pilot licenses by the Palm Beach Pilot Commissioners Before World War II, but it is not known exactly how many were licensed or how long they served. Earl Menges was the only one who continued piloting after the war.

Pilotage services continue through hurricane-grade weather.

The following list shows all of the known Pilots during and after WWII.

Earl Menges, 1927-1966 Skip Westthrope, 1938-1946 George W. Fizell, 1946-1988

Through the years, the pilots have watched the port grow, wane, rebuild and prosper. They have assisted U.S. and British naval warships, private yachts belonging to the Onassis and Post families, and the five-ship Havana fleet that maintained cargo operations between the U.S. and Cuba.

Lloyd J. Parker, 1956-1986

All of the current pilots are navigation experts of Lake Worth Inlet and former merchant mariners. For example, Captain Greg Turner, the most senior pilot at the port, has made over 17,000 transits bringing ships in and out of the Port of Palm Beach since 1983. In its centennial year, the port recognizes the invaluable contributions made by the harbor pilots, who serve as the guiding lights for ships entering and leaving the Port of Palm Beach.

William G. Roden, Jr., 1984-Present

George A. Fizell, 1969-2004 Gregory G. Turner, 1983-Present

William D. Messer, 1988-Present Matthew L. Rigby, 2000-Present Reid Hansen, 2004-Present



Rail reaches to ships loading cargo destined for Bahamas and Cuba.



Chapter 2

Expanding in the Post-War Era 1945-1959 While the war years were relatively quiet in terms of cargo and passenger traffic, the Port of Palm Beach began moving forward into a new era with the arrival of peace. Under the federal Rivers and Harbors Act of 1945, the federal government authorized deepening the channel and turning basin to 25 feet. Another step occurred with the arrival of the West India Fruit & Steamship Company in 1946. The company began a lucrative car ferry service to Havana, and the port’s tonnage records soared. To handle the movement of thousands of rail cars, a loading bridge was installed at the south side of Slip 1. This dramatic increase in traffic convinced the commissioners to build a second slip and dredge a southward extension of the turning basin. Both the channel and basin were deepened to 27 feet, a project authorized and funded by the federal government. Other improvements included the construction of a new warehouse, surfacing of the loading area and extending the railroad tracking to a total of 5.5 miles.



U.S. Navy officers and contractors at USCG building previously located on mainland port property discuss new facility being built on Andros Island.

At this time, the port commission also approved the construction of a wooden pier on Lake Okeechobee in Pahokee to provide water access for the surrounding farming communities. In 1946, the pier was destroyed by a strong hurricane, but it was rebuilt almost immediately, Soon afterwards the board entered into a cooperative agreement with the City of Pahokee to construct a breakwater as a safe refuge for small craft in the



Chapter 2

Florida Havana Railroad Ferry vessels loading Cuba-bound cargo.

lake. In 1953, a barge terminal facility on the lake at Belle Glade was also completed. Although there was little commerce at either lake facility, the port’s initiatives provided an alternative to the surface transportation of agricultural commodities in the Glades area. They also helped to reduce the railroad freight rates on raw sugar from the region’s newly constructed sugar cane mills – a lasting financial benefit for the growers.



Left: Prepping for cement pour for slip wall lining. Top: Crews laying rail. Bottom: Pipe welding.



Chapter 2

Vessel ready to receive rail cargo bound for Havana.

By 1948, the port channel was deepened further to permit large oil tankers to enter the harbor and service the adjacent Florida Power & Light (FPL) plant in Riviera Beach. One of the men who played a key leadership role during this time was L.R. Bishop. He served the board for 24 years as secretary, chairman and port manager. Following his retirement in 1957, Joel C. Wilcox, who had been traffic manager, became the first full-time port director. This was the year that revenues peaked for the decade, thanks primarily to the car ferry service.



Steel pilings used for seawall.

Digging slip for increased depth.

Aerial shot of Slip 2 progress.



Chapter 2

Rail cars loaded onto Havana ferry.

Recognizing the importance of the port as a key gateway for international shipping, the commission proposed a major port harbor improvement project. In 1952, Congress authorized a review of the project, which included deepening the channel to 33 feet (with two required additional feet for an depth of 35 feet) in order to permit the port to accommodate the larger vessels of the 1950s.




Florida Havana Railroad Ferry returning from Cuba.

Crews hooking up to FPL oil valve pit.



Chapter 2

Walter Du Mont entering port, late 1950s.

When public hearings began two years later, the Palm Beach Civic Association raised objections about the likelihood of damage from the tide levels in Lake Worth. However, local consulting engineers and the district engineer in Jacksonville found that the change in tide levels would be minimal and increasing the channel size would have little effect on beach erosion. However, the civic association continued to oppose the projects. While similar projects at Port Everglades and the Port of Miami received local support and substantial federal funding, the Port of Palm Beach was passed over.

Next, port officials built a scale model of the inlet to determine the project’s effect on the tides. After satisfying requests for additional data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the report was submitted in 1958, bearing out the previous findings of negligible effects on the tides and beach erosion. The Town of Palm Beach still objected, but the project was finally approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, and submitted to Congress in 1960. The project began in 1964 and was completed three years later. Today, the inlet channel’s depth remains at 35 feet – the same level as in 1967.



Rail ferry bound for Cuba loading boxcars onto ship.

Aerial view of busy port, late 1950s.

In the 1950s, goods bound to and from Cuba came through the Port of Palm Beach by railcars. West India Fruit and Steamship Co. carried as many as 10,000 loaded railcars to the Caribbean nation every year. By 1957, rail traffic between the U.S. and Cuba reached an all-time high, as the company handled more than half a million tons of freight between the two countries. Boxcars, up to 26 at a time, were switched aboard the sea-going ferries for the overnight trip to Havana, where the cars were rolled off the ship and turned over to Cuban railways. On the return trip, other freight cars loaded with Cuban products were



Chapter 2

S.S. New Grand Haven returning from Havana.

Ferry departing port.

brought back to the port, where they in turn were unloaded and sent on to their destinations via the Florida East Coast Railway. Freight to Cuba included less-than-carload merchandise, manufactured goods, chemicals, lard, railway equipment, temperate zone fruit, such as apples, pears and grapes, meat, dairy, steel products and machinery. Goods coming into the U.S. included tobacco, refined sugar, pineapples, rum, tomatoes, and scrap metal. For approximately 15 years, the car ferry service was the principal freight link between the U.S. and Cuba and the heavy traffic between the two nations helped Palm Beach become one of Florida’s leading ports.



Port of Palm Beach green space along U.S. 1 displaying cannons shipped into port from Cuba, which are now located at the cruise terminal entrance.



Chapter 3

Diversifying the Port’s Operations 1960-1969 While the 1950s was a strong decade for the port, the rise of Fidel Castro and his establishment of a communist dictatorship in Cuba in 1959 led to a downturn in commerce. As the U.S. government embargo brought all trade with Cuba to a halt, port revenues plunged and 60 percent of total income was lost. At the same time, the port was faced with a rise in operating costs since it was forced to take over all duties of the terminal railroad. A new switch engine was purchased to help the port maintain its connections with the railroads serving the region. Responding to the challenge, the port commissioners began an all-out effort to develop new avenues of trade, and revenues began to climb slowly but steadily as operations were diversified. By 1963, the Port of Palm Beach was on sound financial footing again, while gaining national prominence as a major gateway to an emerging Latin American market.



West India Line operations, early 1960s.

Early in the 1960s, a major lumber company established an outlet on port property, and the shipment of wood products began to generate a long-term stream of revenue. In addition, the port became a significant player in the cement shipping market. International Trading Corporation began importing bulk cement, and leased extensive warehouse space for storing cement and other building materials. Meanwhile, Ideal Cement Company constructed a $1.5 million bulk storage facility, which permitted the transfer of cement from vessels to a silo through an enclosed pumping system. Cement being loaded for export to Caribbean.



Chapter 3

In the early 1960s, Belcher Oil opened a facility at the port, which became a base for supplying FPL’s Riviera Beach generating plant, as well as Pratt & Whitney’s jet engine operations in northern Palm Beach County, and the expanding sugar extraction plants in the Glades. Once again, the port was demonstrating its clear value in supporting the evolving needs of Palm Beach County’s economy. Meanwhile, the Williams Shipping Agency began the first regular passenger service from the port with the MS Grand Bahama, which sailed three times a week to West End on Grand Bahama Island. Reflecting the growth in passenger and cargo traffic, space was expanded for the offices of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) and the Border Patrol. In 1962, West India Line arrived from Miami and became the port’s largest tenant. The shipping company specialized in the transportation of fully assembled heavy equipment to remote job sites all over the world. It had a fleet of 17 highly maneuverable, versatile vessels that were engineered for carrying heavy and massive units in shallow-draft conditions. For instance, the company shipped a prefabricated, fully equipped 60-room hotel to Easter Island, 2,350 miles off the coast of Chile. This ability to move unconventional materials to destinations with limited access gave West India a unique position in the global marketplace. It remained at the port for more than 20 years. Continued on page 44



Tropical Shipping: A Long History of Customer Service

40-foot container returns to port.

Tropical containers return to Port of Palm Beach.

In 1962, Tropical Shipping & Construction began operations at the Port of Palm Beach and achieved immediate success. With its slogan, “On Time Every Time,” Tropical became a leading player in serving the Caribbean, Central and South America with service as far north as Canada. Now under the ownership of Seattlebased Saltchuk Resources, Inc., Tropical’s fleet handles everything from small packages to millions of tons of grocery products and building materials.

Freeport in May 1963, carrying machinery and building supplies.

Tropical’s history dates back to 1954, when Florida contractor John H. Birdsall, Jr. founded Birdsall Construction Company. Several years later, he realized the growth potential of Freeport, Grand Bahamas, and won a commercial construction bid to serve that market. In order to solve the transportation issues of getting his construction equipment and materials to The Bahamas, Birdsall purchased a small landing craft (129-feet long) to carry these items. Soon, other contractors doing work in Freeport asked Birdsall to carry their goods as well as his own. To satisfy the growing demand for transportation from South Florida to The Bahamas, Birdsall formed Tropical Shipping and Construction Company, Ltd. Realizing that ocean transportation was a valued service, Birdsall purchased the company’s first ship, the M/V Tropic Ace, which made its maiden voyage to



Right from the start, Tropical Shipping became known for being a “customercentric” company that focuses on timely delivery with on-time ship arrivals, according to Rick Murrell, who joined the company in 1969 and is now president and CEO. In a 2014 magazine interview, Murrell said, “Before the company was started, shipping in the Caribbean rarely operated with any commitment to a fixed arrival time. The Birdsall family led the Tropical team to implement an effective on-time arrival logistics system that set the standards needed by island customers. This mindset was possible due to the Birdsalls having no background as ship owners, just experience as a customer of a shipping line.” The company grew quickly in its first decade, adding service to Nassau in 1967 and acquiring three vessels (M/V Ballena, M/V Tropic Haven and M/V Tropic Day) by 1969. The next year, Birdsall Construction Company ceased its construction activities and functioned as an agent for Tropical Shipping. During the 1970s, the company took delivery of five more vessels and expanded service to the Cayman Island, Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, St.

Chapter 3

Loaded ship awaits pilot escort to exit Port of Palm Beach.

Tropical ships are specially chosen and designed to have shallow drafts and include on-vessel cranes.

Thomas, St. Croix and Tortola, followed by St. Barth in 1981.

In 2011, AGL acquired NICOR, and was Tropical Shipping’s parent until selling the company to Saltchuk on September 1, 2014.

NICOR Corporation, a publicly traded company, acquired Tropical in 1982 and Murrell became president and CEO the following year. New ships and destinations were added during the 1980s, increasing the role of the Port of Palm Beach in the region. Ed Severino, who joined Tropical in 1989 and is now director, U.S. Terminal Operations, attributed the company’s success to “a combination of organic growth plus the opportunity to look for new markets based on acquisitions.” In 1991, ABC Sports chartered the M/V Tropic Quest for the Pam Am Games in Havana, Cuba, providing Tropical with the opportunity to send the first commercial cargo ship to Cuba since the 1962 embargo. President Bill Clinton toured Tropical’s facilities in a 1997 visit to the Port of Palm Beach to promote his “fast-track authority” for free trade agreements. Meanwhile, Tropical continued to grow adding service to New Brunswick, Canada, the Eastern Caribbean and Guyana and Suriname in the early 2000s, along with opening cargo consolidation facilities in Miami and West Palm Beach.

Today, Tropical’s 1,070 employees and its fleet of 15 ships serve 28 regional destinations from its base at the Port of Palm Beach. Its custom-built ships with RO/RO ramps and container cranes carry refrigerated cargo, as well as clothing, sporting equipment, and retail goods. Through its Tropical Global Logistics service, customers in the Caribbean can buy products from anywhere in the world and ship them through the Port of Palm Beach directly to their destination. Tropical is also a major contributor to education programs in Caribbean communities, and plays a key role in disaster recovery efforts, such as rebuilding in the Virgin Islands after Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The company is also active in Florida Long-Term Disaster Recovery Organizations. Looking ahead, Murrell said the recent acquisition by Saltchuk provides a strong foundation for continued growth. “We have always believed we would make a great team,” he said. “I believe this is a historical moment for Tropical Shipping, which is well positioned for a long and successful future.”



Back in the 1960s, cargo loading and unloading required more manpower than it does today, according to Glen Dias, who started working with West India Line in 1962 and is now president of Gulfstream Line Inc., which was incorporated as a stevedoring company in 1973 and is now a leading port tenant. “At that time, we were running wide open all the time,” he said. “We had a workforce of about 45 people and could bring in another 30 if needed to load or unload incoming bananas and outgoing citrus fruit,” he said. “We would put conveyers onto the trailer trucks and stack them by hand on pallets, working our way back as we filled the trailers.” West India Line offered heavy lift crane service at the port.

One of the port’s specialties was the ability to handle unusual cargo for shippers like West India Line. In keeping with that focus, Heavy Lift Services was incorporated in 1965, and the family-owned company is now the oldest single-family owned port tenant. “We handled explosive blasting caps and chemicals, as well as farming equipment for the Caribbean,” said Dias. One of the most challenging assignments of the late 1960s was packing and loading several satellites for France’s new spaceport in French Guiana. “We had to set up air-conditioning systems to protect the electronic components and a special apparatus on our crane to set it down slowly and softly on the ship,” Dias said. “Everything went smoothly and the satellites arrived as scheduled.”

Cement awaiting pickup.



Chapter 3

Aerial photo of Port Executive Plaza under construction in the early 1960s.

In the late 1960s, the port commissioners placed a major emphasis on containerization. The port’s new 20-year master plan called for building 1,054 feet of bulkheading, which provide three new roll-on, roll-off (Ro/Ro) berths for movement of outsize cargo between ship and shore, as well as a 14-acre container marshaling area, which was increased after several older buildings were torn down.

In 1967, planning began for another important expansion project. Convinced of the need for long-range planning and a substantial expansion of the port facilities, port director Joel Wilcox urged the acquisition of 14.5-acre Layton’s Park to the north, adding 750 feet of waterfront to the port.

At that time, we were That expansion initiative continued under Wilcox’ successor, J.E. Jaudon, who served as executive Containers offered shippers many advantages. With no running wide open director from 1968-1974. However, it took another parcel-by-parcel movement of cargo, handling was all the time ten years for the first phase of this project to be reduced, which meant less damage as well as substantial completed. Additions included more than 900 feet of savings in labor costs and time. Because they are clean, – Glen Dias new bulkheading, 1,500 feet of spur trackage for the containers are also more resistant to spilling and pilferage port-owned railroad, 300 feet of marginal wharf, while minimizing any detrimental effects on the relocating a 50,000-square-foot warehouse and enlarging the turning environment. In fact the roots of containerization go back to 1946 when basin again. railroad cars, rather than containers, were used to transport cargo.



Panoramic photo mosaic of the Port of Palm Beach, 1970s.



Serving the Sugar Industry 1970-1979

Chapter 4

The decade of the 1970s was a time of growth for the port, including a new focus on serving the shipping needs of South Florida’ sugar industry. In 1973 the Board of Commissioners expanded to five members, providing the special taxing district with more equitable representation in line with the one-man, one-vote ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court. Three years later, ad valorem taxes for the port district were suspended and have never been reimposed, thanks to continuing sound fiscal policies. In 1974, David Mock began a four-decade career at the port, serving with Gee & Jenson Engineers-Architects-Planners, Inc. which was later acquired by CH2M Hill, a global civil engineering firm. Now under the direction of Casey Long, port engineer, CH2M Hill has consulted on the Port of Palm Beach’s marine, civil, structural, mechanical, electrical engineering and general engineering needs through the decades. Mock is now president of David Mock Port Consultant, LLC. “I was 25 years old when I started work for Dick Miller, Gee & Jenson’s port engineer,” Mock recalled. “Our first big projects were extending the marginal wharf and constructing a maintenance building on Port Road. Neither the building nor the road is there now.” Next came an extension of the central wharf and construction of Slip 1. After the port finally purchased Layton Park, Mock was part of the engineering team that redeveloped the property, installing the bulkheads and roll-on, roll-off ramps and extending the turning basin to the north. Continued on page 50





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,ϮD ,/>> ; ,ϮDͿ͕ ƚŚƌŽƵŐŚ ƚŚĞ 'ĞĞ Θ :ĞŶƐĞŶ ůĞŐĂĐLJ͕ ŝƐ ŚŽŶŽƌĞĚ ƚŽ ŚĂǀĞ ƉĂƌƚŶĞƌĞĚ ǁŝƚŚ ƚŚĞ WŽƌƚ ŽĨ WĂůŵ ĞĂĐŚ ĨŽƌ ŶĞĂƌůLJ ϲϱ LJĞĂƌƐ͕ ĂƐƐŝƐƚŝŶŐ ƚŚĞ WŽƌƚ ŝŶ ŐƌŽǁŝŶŐ ŝƚƐ ďƵƐŝŶĞƐƐ ĂŶĚ ĂƐ Ă ŵĂũŽƌ ĐŽŶƚƌŝďƵƚŽƌ ƚŽ ƚŚĞ ĞĐŽŶŽŵŝĐ ĂŶĚ ƐŽĐŝĂů ĚĞǀĞůŽƉŵĞŶƚ ŽĨ ŝƚƐ ĐŽŵŵƵŶŝƚLJ͘ ,ϮD ŝƐ ƉƌŽƵĚ ƚŽ ďĞ ƉĂƌƚ ŽĨ ƚŚĞ WŽƌƚ ĨĂŵŝůLJ ĂŶĚ ǁĞ ĐŽŶŐƌĂƚƵůĂƚĞ ƚŚĞ WŽƌƚ ŽĨ WĂůŵ ĞĂĐŚ ŽŶ LJŽƵƌ ϭϬϬ LJĞĂƌƐ ŽĨ ƐƵĐĐĞƐƐ͘ tĞ ůŽŽŬ ĨŽƌǁĂƌĚ ƚŽ ƐŚĂƌŝŶŐ ŵĂŶLJ ŵŽƌĞ ƉƌŽƐƉĞƌŽƵƐ LJĞĂƌƐ ŝŶ ƚŚĞ ĨƵƚƵƌĞ͘ Gee & Jenson (G&J) was founded by Herb Gee and Ted Jenson in West Palm Beach, Florida in 1951, with the Port of Palm Beach (Port) as one of the firm’s first clients. Ted Jenson represented the port in the early years with the original design of the second slip (currently Slip No. 3). The firm focused on Marine and Waterfront Engineering, a trend which has since become a staple at CH2M. Over the past six decades as a General Engineering Consultant to the Port, our areas of expertise have grown to include Design of Marine Infrastructure and Facilities, Rail, Uplands, Buildings, Cruise Terminals, and Warehouses, in addition to providing services on a vast majority of the infrastructure that is now present at the Port. CH2M, through the acquisition of G&J in 2001, has continuously been a preferred provider of engineering services at the Port of Palm Beach, working with staff and assisting in the planning of the Port’s future. Under the direction of David Mock and Casey Long, CH2M has consulted on the Port's marine, civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, and general engineering needs over the years. In 1974, David Mock began a fourͲdecade career working on engineering projects at the Port, first for G&J and subsequently CH2M. "I was 25 years old when I started work for Herb Gee, Ted Jenson, and Dick Miller, G&J’s port engineer“, Mock recalled. "Our first big projects were extending the marginal wharf and constructing a maintenance building on port road.” Neither the building nor the road is there now. Next came an extension of the central wharf and reconstruction of Slip 1 (currently Slip No. 2). After the port finally purchased Layton Park to the north of Port Road, Mock was part of the engineering team that redeveloped the property, installing the bulkheads and rollͲon, rollͲoff ramps, and extending the turning basin to the north. CH2M participated in many small projects as well as significant project designs, such as the North Wharf and RO/RO Ramp Project in 1975 (currently Berth 1), followed in 1988 by the design of the reconstruction of the Port’s original slip (currently Slip No. 2). These infrastructure projects were substantial to the growth and wellͲbeing of the Port, and have been pivotal components of the Port’s continued livelihood. They are the life blood of the Port’s shipping industry and have served as the berths for shipping and enterprise of Palm Beach County for many years.

In 1996, the Port embarked on a major reconstruction program, inclusive of acquisition of lands to the west of U.S. 1; construction of a third slip; a Cruise Terminal; 60 acres of upland cargo yard paving; and the Skypass Bridge. CH2M had substantial involvement in all aspects of this program and served as the primary designer for the waterfront infrastructure and site development. Over the years, CH2M has conducted Master Plans, site and facility assessments, and underwater asset review to aid staff in capital growth and development. In 2005, the Port began development in the South Cargo area to grow their warehouse capabilities and to create a southern gate into the Port. CH2M was the primary consultant involved in the planning, design, and construction administration that resulted in this strategic and necessary project to be successfully completed.


CH2M has continually held offices in the West Palm Beach area within the Port’s District since 1951. We employ more than 58 employees in Palm Beach County and our office, located at 3001 PGA Boulevard, is just minutes from the Port. Daily interaction with the Port and serving as an extension of the Port’s staff for many years has led to a unique bond and alignment of our organization with the Port of Palm Beach. The acquisition of G&J by CH2M has allowed this bond to grow and further expand our capabilities to support the Port. Our West Palm Beach office was built by our relationships with Port clients. Our first port contract was with the Port and we have been honored to continuously hold this contract to date. Our commitment to the Port has extended beyond the dayͲtoͲday activities of providing engineering consulting services. CH2M professionals have seamlessly integrated with Port staff, providing backup during changes in the Port’s staff, assisted Port staff in preparing for and recovering from hurricanes and tornados, evaluated grant opportunities and tenant issues, worked with the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and adjacent communities, and worked closely with, and on behalf of, the Port to address issues with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Florida Inland Navigation District, and Palm Beach County. We have responded at all times to emergencies related to facility damage, weatherͲrelated issues, regulatory issues, and special tenant needs. Our extensive knowledge of the Port, its tenants, and its history, enables us to react quickly to staff requests for lease legal descriptions and surveys, reviews of tenant improvements, aerial maps, soils information, utility locations, mooring layouts, and cost estimates. CH2M has been honored to be part of the Port’s success, and we are proud today to celebrate this monumental occasion with the Port. For 65 of the Port’s 100 years, we have worked side by side with Port staff and look forward to continuing our successful partnership for the next 100+ years.


In 1975, the port began publishing Gateway Magazine under the direction of Colonel Frank Donahue, who served as port director from 1974 to 1984. It was a communications link between the port and the communities it serves, as well as tenants and users of port facilities. Through the years, the magazine won many prestigious awards from the American Association of Port Authorities. There were several attempts in the 1970s to introduce cruise operations. In December 1976, there was an enthusiastic reception for the SS Stella Solaris, flagship of the Sun Line, as it carried 600 European passengers on an 18-day Christmas cruise to the Caribbean and South America. But it would take another decade before the port would become home port for a cruise ship. A new chapter in the port operations began in 1978 when the first load of raw sugar arrived at the new $4.5 million, 20,000-ton warehouse on the south end of the port property. Raw sugar was trucked in from the mills in the Glades,

Sugar warehouse, new construction.



Chapter 4

stored in the warehouse and loaded onto barges and transported to refineries on the East Coast and Louisiana. The new facility helped expand sugar operations, which generated $1 million in additional wages for port-related jobs in 1979. Revenues jumped 40 percent over the prior year. “Agriculture is a big factor in South Florida’s economy,� said John Hale, vice president and general manager, Florida Sugar & Molasses Exchange, Inc., an agricultural marketing cooperative in Riviera Beach that serves South Florida sugar cane producers. Through the years, the exchange has handled the marketing and shipment of raw sugar and molasses, rotating those products through its warehouse and terminal facilities at the port. In the 1970s, the Florida Sugar and Marketing Terminal Association and the Florida Molasses Exchange were separate companies. In 2007, the two companies were combined for greater efficiency and service to the producers. The exchange now has five administrative

Tug crewman prepares sugar barge for departure.



Tug pulls sugar barge from resting position.



Chapter 4

Conveyor belt moves sugar from warehouse to barge.

Inside sugar warehouse, a front loader distributes sugar weight to facilitate underground conveyor movement.

employees and another 20-25 workers who load and receive the sugar and molasses at the port. For the past few years, the exchange has handled approximately 500,000 tons of raw sugar and 150,000 to 160,000 tons of molasses annually, Hale said. “We have enjoyed a strong partnership with the Port of Palm Beach over the years,” he added. “The port commissioners and administrative team are dedicated to smooth and efficient operations.”



The Palm Beach Princess.



Chapter 5

Attracting the Cruise Industry 1980-1989 By the early 1980s the Port of Palm Beach had achieved a solid balance between bulk, break-bulk and containerized cargo, focusing on diversity to encourage new business and create new employment opportunities in Palm Beach County. Ground was broken for the five-story, 60,000-square-foot Maritime Office Building in 1981 and it was completed a year later. It served as home to the port’s executive offices, U.S. Customs & Border Protection, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Later, port tenants such as Tropical Shipping, Lund & Pullara, Palm Beach Cruises and others leased office space in the building. At this point, the port was thriving as a major distribution center for freight bound for The Bahamas, the Caribbean and Latin America, and the primary transportation facility for sugar and molasses. Revenues climbed from $800,000 in 1974 to $2.2 million in 1982 despite three national recessions. By 1984 the Port of Palm Beach ranked number two among Florida’s deepwater ports, handling more than 100,000 containers annually.



Ground breaking ceremony for the new cruise terminal / office complex.

Meanwhile, Eastern Cement, a major tenant since 1962, completed construction of a modern, dust-free facility with the same capacity as the sugar warehouse. This combined with Ideal Cement’s existing silos, increased the port’s storage capacity to 50,000 tons of cement, providing support for South Florida’s construction sector as it gained momentum. Today, the facility is home to CEMEX, which owns the silo and bagging operations at the port.



Cement silos, built for Eastern Cement.

By the early 1980s, West India Line's services began to shrink. The company expanded operations to Houston in 1984 but eventually liquidated and sold its fleet some years later. Tropical Shipping eventually bought several of the West India vessels for its own fleet of container ships. Construction continued at the port itself with the completion of a three-building complex for Tropical Shipping, new storage tanks

Chapter 5

Switch engines owned and operated by Port of Palm Beach.

for molasses and a new switch engine for the port’s railroad. The port’s 20-year comprehensive master plan was approved with short-term objectives that included the construction of a new Maritime Office Building and opening a Foreign Trade Zone. “Every decade has been an era of operational and fiscal growth for the port,” said Blair Ciklin, commission chairman. “In 1985 we reached our largest year ever for general cargo, handling

Side-by-side cargo and sugar operations.

1,051,416 short tons.” The port broke its record in containers as well, moving 115,207 containers. Rail car movements into the port were up by 83 percent in 1985. This overall increase in productivity resulted in the highest revenues in port history: $3,306,726, a 14 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. In 1982, after a successful trial run of the MV Scandinavian Sun, a 440-foot, 10-deck liner from Scandinavian World Cruises, the



The Royal Yacht, HMY Britannia, 1995.

port established a task force to investigate the feasibility of attracting a cruise line. But it wasn’t until 1985 that serious negotiations began with Oddmund Grunstad, president of Crown Cruise Line. The first of several vessels to arrive was the Viking Princess, which offered daily one-day cruises to The Bahamas plus a variety of dinner and brunch cruises. At that time, passenger terminal facilities didn’t exist, so the former offices of West India Fruit & Steamship and West



India Line were quickly converted into temporary cruise terminals. The Viking Princess cruises were immediately successful and a new permanent terminal was planned. Meanwhile, the 486-passenger Crown Del Mar arrived, offering two- and five-night cruises to Nassau and the western Caribbean. She was soon replaced by the 560passsenger, $95 million Crown Monarch, which had just been built in Spain. The Crown Monarch offered luxury seven-day cruises with ports of call in Key West, Grand

Chapter 5

Viking Princess and Crown Del Mar docked at Port of Palm Beach.

Cayman, Jamaica and Haiti. Cruise operations continued to grow and became the second-largest revenue producer at the port as early as 1987. In January 1990, a 20,000square-foot, $1.7 million cruise terminal was dedicated in a gala ceremony. In 1986 the port deeded the 100-foot dock with access to Lake Okeechobee to the City of Belle Glade for use as a recreational facility. A year later, port director Frank Donahue retired and Ben Murphy succeeded him.

Throughout this period, computers began to be deployed at the port to track the arrivals and departures of vessels and their cargoes. By the end of the decade, a $10 million bond issue had funded improvements in fire protection, water and sewage, lighting, parking, paving, drainage, existing wharves, and an $800,000 upgrading of the railroad system. Container operations now occupied more than 24 acres of paved marshaling and storage area.



Yacht transportation from Port of Palm Beach to destinations around the world.



Chapter 6

Changing the Skyline 1990-1999 The 1990s brought further improvements to the port’s infrastructure, and a dramatic change to the region's skyline. Along with the new cruise terminal, a two-phase, $2.5 million Florida Molasses Exchange project was completed, including a new unloading terminal and two 2.5-million gallon storage tanks. A Centralized Examination Station for U.S. Customs opened west of U.S. 1 in June 1996, and P.B. Cold (now Merchant's Market) began cold storage operations with a 100,000 square-foot facility. The purchase of a 12.5-acre property formerly owned by Perry Oceanographics expanded the port, while a parcel on Military Trail was sold to FPL. In 1991, the port commission sold 40 acres on Peanut Island to the Florida Inland Navigation District to be used for dredge material management, passive recreation and habitat preservation. The agreement banned commercial development and included a provision to lease the remaining land to Palm Beach County to build a park. Today, an old Coast Guard station and a 1960s-era bunker for President Kennedy and his family have been preserved as part of the Palm Beach Maritime Museum.



Flags flying aboard vessel docked at Port of Palm Beach.

Palm Beach Princess escorted by pilot boat.

Opening ceremony of port tenant Palm Beach Cold, now Merchant’s Market.



Port of Palm Beach rail crew.

Chapter 6

Carl Baker, director of planning and development, started his career with the port in 1992 as a security officer working the midnight shift. “Things were quiet at that time,” he said. “But that was about to change.” In 1993, Crown Cruise Line was acquired by an international conglomerate and the Crown Monarch and Crown Jewel were repositioned to other markets. However, cruise operations continued with the Viking Princess, which later became the Palm Beach Princess. A year later, the port extended the seawall east about 50 feet, increasing storage space for Tropical’s containers. “By 1995, we were focusing on crucial issues such as expansion and improvements,” said Ciklin. “Exports to South America and the Caribbean had doubled over the past four years; hence the Florida Legislature gave priority to funding infrastructure improvements and intermodal highway access for truck and rail. Florida seaports were finally recognized as key trade facilitators, meaning it was time to get to work.” As the only port in Florida with on-port rail, the Port of Palm Beach got heavy-duty trucks off the highways, while increasing intermodal efficiency within – obviously an attractive feature for tenants and potential partners. “The owning and operating of our own switching railroad meant we were able to offer the advantages of a 24-hour service to our users,” said Ciklin.



Another indication of the port’s growing regional acclaim was the port call by the USS McCampbell (DDG 85), named for Captain David McCampbell, who grew up in West Palm Beach and became the Navy’s leading ace in World War II. Working in conjunction with the Navy League of Palm Beach Council and the Port of Palm Beach, the USS McCampbell hosted over 3,500 visitors from the local community in two days of ship tours. This was the first ship open house in a civilian port in the United States after the events of September 11, 2001.

Top - U.S. Naval Academy YP Crafts docked alongside northern slip. Above - USS Doyle moored at port for evening event. Left - Crewmembers of the USS Carr.

USS Carr escorted by pilot ship.



The festivities offered by West Palm Beach’s Sunfest and 4th on Flagler brought in the Navy over the next few years including visits by the crews of the USS Doyle (FFG 39), the USS Carr (FFG 52) on two separate occasions, and the USS Kauffman (FFG 59). There were two separate visits by a flotilla of six YP craft, crewed by U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen. As stated in the program for the Navy Leagues Birthday Ball: “The Port of Palm Beach – The Best FFG Liberty Port on the East Coast.” Additionally the port hosted the Indonesian sail

Chapter 6

training ship Kri Dewaruci, also crewed by naval cadets. The port’s most significant expansion program kicked off in the late 1990s under the leadership of executive director Edward Oppel, who later was elected to the Board of Commissioners. As Baker said, “Oppel was a builder and he got things done.” After the port commissioners prepared a $100 million master plan, they received approval from the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress for bonds to implement these extensive capital improvements. “We have been able to maintain four very clear profit centers, and have brought in more tenants and that equals more jobs,” said Oppel at the time. “The master plan allows us to blend the old with the new – the past with the present.” One of the first components of the plan was a new container yard with capacity for 600 double-stacked TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). Then came work on the cargo facilities. “We rebuilt Slip 1 and removed the aging industrial buildings on the north side of the middle slip,” said Mock. “We also smoothed out the rail tracks to the west, which were very uneven and hard to navigate. Then, we added Slip 3, giving the port even more capacity.”

Structural site plan for the third slip to be built at Port of Palm Beach provided by CH2MHill.



Grand Celebration enters port at dawn.

Located on the northern part of the site with a 33-foot depth, the last slip to be built at the port provided additional working space for both cruise and cargo operations. It added nearly 2,000 feet of new berth space, and provided separation between the passenger and freight operations from a variety of tenants, such as Teeters Agency & Stevedoring (owner of Monarch



Shipping) which began operations in 1983, Eastern Freight Forwarders, and Anchor Marine Agencies. But the most dramatic change to the port and the regional skyline was the completion of Skypass, a $28.7 million project elevating U.S. 1 high above the existing roadway and providing a new connection between the

Chapter 6

President Bill Clinton visits the port in 1997 to give speech on economic impacts of foreign trade.

Above and Left. Filming scenes for Shut Up and Kiss Me!, a film produced by Suzanne Delaurentiis Productions, 2003.



Skypass Bridge construction underway, 1998.



Chapter 6

cities of Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach. The fourlane structure with 50-foot clearance gave the port the ability to operate trains, trucks and container carriers through the entire port facility without interfering with vehicles traveling on U.S. 1. Skypass opened on March 17, 1999 after less than 24 months of construction and under the original $30 million budget “Skypass is our link to the 21st century,” said commission chairman Bob Williams at the time. “With the South Florida transition from a locally based economy to the worldwide economy of the 21st century, the port has taken the proper steps to help make Palm Beach County part of the new world order.”

Dedication Ceremony for Skypass Bridge, March 1999.





Chapter 7

Entering the 21st Century 2000-2014 As part of the port’s master plan, a new Cruise Terminal and Maritime Office Complex was completed in 2000 along with additional parking and new access road. Designed by architects Zeiler-Roberts with unique maritime styling, this 40,000-square-foot cruise terminal and 60,000square-foot office building offered complete federal inspection stations, passenger lounge areas and the latest in communication services. It gave the port the ability to handle two cruise liners simultaneously and by 2000 the port was serving 250,000 single-day passengers per year. The port entered the 21st century under executive director Anthony Taormina, who served from 2000 to 2002. Like all the nation’s international gateways, the Port of Palm Beach stepped up its security in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. “We established a secured area around the port with two carefully controlled access points,” said Mock. “That included new security gates on the north port road and on the south side.” After Richard Waino’s tenure as executive director (2002 to 2004), Lori A. Baer became one of the nation’s first female port directors, serving for five years until 2008. She is now AECOM’s vice president, Ports & Marine

Passenger cruise terminal, completed 2000.



National Lead. “I feel a deep personal connection with the port and am proud that my company is a key consulting partner,” she said. “There are many people in Palm Beach County and the Caribbean who rely on the port for their livelihood.” Under Baer’s direction, the port began a new dredging feasibility study – the first for any Florida port in several decades. “This was the start of a lengthy project to deepen and widen the shipping channel,” she said. “We found that project had a very favorable benefit-cost ratio and was well worth pursuing.” It was also under the tenure of Baer that the port's nonprofit outreach for mariners was established. In 2003, Pastor John Van Hemmert and Deacon Clayton Waddell began visiting ships to offer ministry services. Three years later, Harbor of Hope was officially established with the mission to provide seafarers who arrive at the port with a warm welcome and any assistance needed during their



stay. Today, the organization remains committed to serving the port's vital community of mariners. In 2005, commissioners approved a new master plan, developed with the assistance of CH2MHill to help the port respond to its competition, shifts in the marketplace and growth issues. “Adding to our past successes that included our aggressive capital program, the master plan sought to focus on the partnerships between Port of Palm Beach and the State of Florida and Florida Ports Council for grants to continue improving the port and its infrastructure,” said Ciklin. “Because of our infrastructure improvements, we became a solid resource for steel, cement, lumber, produce and bulk providers.” This was also the year the port was recognized as a “Partner in Education” with The School District of Palm Beach County. “Our four-week educational program with John F. Kennedy Middle School in Riviera Beach welcomed eight groups of 30 students for an educational

Chapter 7

Pilots navigate ships through increasingly busy inlet and port.



presentation, guest speakers and tours of on-site facilities,” Ciklin said. “This endeavor began focused efforts for student visits to the port and the beginnings of our annual summer internship program.” Today, the Port of Palm Beach provides first-hand experiences and learning in engineering, business development, finance and communications for the maritime industry to college students each summer. “Helping the upcoming generations understand the importance of ports and our industry in the nation and world is something in which we take great pride,” Ciklin said. In 2007, the port embarked on additional capital improvements projects to stay competitive, including the development of on-dock rail, and the reconstruction of Slip 3, a $27.2 million project. Now under the guidance of Manuel Almira, who became executive director in 2008, these improvements provide for additional and diverse cargos, and more seamless operations. The national economic downturn in 2008-09 had less effect on the port than other parts of the country. One reason is that many of the economies of the Caribbean and Latin America continued to grow during the U.S. recession and gradual economic recovery. The port’s diversification strategy also helped cushion the financial impact. By 2012, the port had regained its positive economic momentum, and identified several new business opportunities in both traditional and nontraditional products that will further diversify its revenue.

Asphalt enters the port via rail.



Chapter 7

Imported FPL gas turbine being offloaded at Port of Palm Beach.

In fiscal year 2014, the port negotiated a long-term agreement with an international energy company to export natural gas to its Caribbean electric power plants. In keeping with that agreement, the port began its Berth 17 expansion project, in a partnership with AECOM and FDOT. That project is scheduled to be completed in 2017 and in full operation a year later. That will provide a stable, inflation-adjusted revenue stream to the port with averages nearing $1.5 million for the next 20 years. The port also engaged AECOM for its Slip 3 redevelopment project, which

Operations continue through construction of the port’s southernmost slip.

expands capacity for sugar, molasses and steel cargos. “This is critically important in keeping the Port of Palm Beach viable in those trades,” said Baer. On the passenger side, Celebration Cruise Line, a multi-day cruise company replaced the vessel Bahamas Celebration in 2015. On February 3, 2015 a new and larger cruise ship, the Grand Celebration, set sail, breaking passenger revenue records for the port. “The first six months of operations exceeded the port’s expectations,” Ciklin said.



Florida Power & Light transformer being offloaded from vessel directly to rail.



Chapter 7

Port tenants’ vessels Monarch Express and Tropic Carib moored adjacent to one another.

Blue Horizon Casino Cruises vessel sets sail for international waters.

In July, Blue Horizon Casino Cruises launched one-day casino cruises, giving residents and visitors two cruise options from the Port of Palm Beach. Under Almira’s direction, the port enjoyed a record fiscal year 2014, handling 353,000 multi-day cruise passengers and achieving overall revenues of more than $15 million. “Due to efficient land use, our port has one of the highest container throughputs per acre in the country,” Almira said. ‘We provide shippers with reliable transportation gateway services to The Bahamas, the Caribbean and Latin America.”



Tug pulls sugar barge toward Atlantic Ocean.



Chapter 8

The Next 100 Years Since its founding a century ago, the Port of Palm Beach has been a powerful engine for economic growth in South Florida. “By allowing our businesses to continue to grow, we have succeeded in the creation of jobs and economic activity over the past 100 years,” said Ciklin. “Today, our port accounts for more than 2,850 direct jobs, exceeding the predictions of just a few years ago.” While the Port of Palm Beach doesn't receive vessels that call upon larger ports with deeper channels and wider slips, these constraints can be viewed as a strength. Size restrictions have forced the port to seek out tenants and technologies that exemplify efficiency, which has resulted in an operation that provides the Caribbean Basin with 50 percent of its imports. Improved U.S. relations with Cuba and the potential resumption of trade with the country will create new business opportunities for the port in the years to come. To continue to support the region's economy, the port is always improving its infrastructure. In August 2015, the port completed the renovation of its southernmost slip, a $27.2 million project. The project included an increase of depth to 35 feet (from 33 feet), a northward shift of approximately 10 feet and the development of two new RO/RO ramps. Other projects include the construction of a mini slip, expected to begin in 2016, and the implementation of new software that increases cargo loading efficiencies and safety.



Port of Palm Beach, 2014.



Chapter 8

A long-term issue confronting the port is the design of the Lake Worth Inlet. The last significant improvement was completed in 1963. Since then, cargo ships have continued to grow in size, becoming longer and wider. Commercial traffic, mega-yachts and recreational users in the inlet have increased dramatically, generating the need for extensive safety measures. While the Army Corps of Engineers has a plan to resolve some of the design deficiencies, the plan itself comes with heavy expenses and voiced concerns from the neighboring residential communities. Director Almira sees continued progress at the port, including a lengthened cruise ship berth alongside significantly increased container and rail operations with a rail barge facility. The port has started to make some of those ideas happen sooner rather than later. Reflecting on the future, Ciklin says, “As we continue to make infrastructure improvements that increase operational efficiencies, I look forward to watching the port help our tenants grow and continue to serve as a job creator for our county, and a hub for economic development for the next 100 years.



Shoreline Shoreli ine F Foundation ound o dation Inc Inc.. is honored d to have have rebuilt rebuilt Slip p No. No. 3 for fo or the P Port ort off P Palm alm Beach and a extends our ou ur congr congratulations ratulations to the t Port Port on 100 0 years years of exce excellence! ellence! Shoreline FFoundation Shoreline oundation IInc. nc. specializ specializes es in mar marine ine cconstruction, onstruction, hea heavy vy high h high-way, w ay, and deep ffoundation ound dation cconstruction onstruction services. servicces. Established in 1986, 1986 SFI S provides provides these construction construction services services for for projects projeccts at at locations throughout eastern Baha-loca tions thr oughout the east ern seaboard seaboard off the United United States, States, the Baha B mas,, and the C mas Caribbean. aribbean. Over Over the last 29 years, yeaars, Shoreline Shoreline Foundation Foundation n has built more more fixed fixed and floating floating mar marine ine facilitiess than any any other contractor contractor in FFlorida. lorida. specializes marine Ports SFI specializ es in the e cconstruction onstruction of mar ine infrastructure infrastructure ffor o or P orts fr ffrom om Maryland M aryland to to Texas, Texas, ass well well as government government infrastructure infrastruc a ture improvement improvement projp ojpr ects and agencies.. ec ts for for local, local, state state an nd ffederal ederal agencies

Available upon request, Available request e , our Statement Statement of Q Qualifications ualifications pr provides ovides descriptions projects, descr iptions of representative rep presentative pr ojects, ccompany ompany vvalues alues and details d professional approach delivering qualityy our pr ofessional ap pproach of cconsistently onsistently deliv ering a qualit product. pr oduct. IInformation nffor o mation about SFI’s SFI’s cur current rent pr projects ojects ma mayy be ffound ound d aat: t: w www.shorelinefoundation.com ww.shorelineffo oundaation.com

Blue B lue H Horizon orizon C Casino asino C Cruises ruises S Sailing ailing ffrom rom tthe he P Port or t o off P Palm alm B Beach each www.bluehorizoncasinocruises.com www.bluehorizoncasinocruises.com • 1.855.478.LUCK 1.855.478.LUCK



BUILD IT GREENER. SMARTER. BEAUTIFULLY. STRONGER. SAFER. TO SPEC. FASTER. FOREVER. High-quality products. Unsurpassed technical expertise. Total commitment to customer service. For 100 years, the people of CEMEX have been hard at work, turning your visions into realities, building what could only be imagined and improving upon convention, helping you build it better. 1501 Belvedere Rd., West Palm Beach, FL 33406 (561) 833-5555


Built to deliver a better world www.aecom.com 100th ANNIVERSARY 86

AECOM is honored to salute Port of Palm Beach on its 100-year anniversary and to have played an integral role in the Port’s critical ability to serve its community and the people of the Caribbean for the century to come. For the past 100 years, Port of Palm Beach has been literally feeding the Bahamas, Haiti and islands throughout the Caribbean Basin – countries as diverse as the populations of the communities of the Port of Palm Beach District. Looking to the next 100 years, the expanded Slip No. 3 will continue this tradition of excellence in service. AECOM is proud to have furnished Port of Palm Beach with the planning, design, permitting, construction document preparation, construction management and construction administration services for the Slip No. 3 project. As the firm ranked by Engineering News-Record as No. 1 in the world in the ports and marine sector and in providing engineering design services, as well as named by Fortune magazine as a World’s Most Admired Company, AECOM embraces many of the same guiding principles as have made Port of Palm Beach a dynamic force among seaports for the past century. Like Port of Palm Beach, we at AECOM recognize the importance of positively impacting lives, transforming communities and making the world a better place through collaborative efforts focused on people, clients, excellence, integrity, safety and innovation. We wish Port of Palm Beach the best for the 100 years to come and beyond as it advances these essential tenets, to the benefit of all those the Port serves, here in the Port of Palm Beach District and throughout the Caribbean.





At Tropical Shipping, we focus on our custmers and our values. We have an enduring commitment to these core values: Trust, Responsiveness, Ownership, People, Integrity, Communication, Accountability and Leadership. The TROPICAL values remind us each day of our shared commitment to always serve our customers and all people of The Bahamas and the Caribbean, in an way that is ethical, conscientious and respectful.

Tropic Ace in 1963, Tropical’s first ship, the Tropic Ace, made its maiden voyage from the Port of Palm Beach to Freeport, Bahamas, carrying machinery and building supplies.

Tropical’s relationship with our Caribbean neighbors is deep and lasting, built on leadership, trust, responsiveness and good corporate citizenship. We support Island community and cultural life and give back to the region’s economies in ways such as private / public sector collaborations, community development partnerships, corporate giving, event sponsorships, employment opportunities,

volunteerism, disaster preparedness and recovery. A member of the Saltchuk family of companies, Tropical maintains an emphasis on environmental sensitivity and safety in all areas of operation. Trust Tropical to deliver your shipping needs. We take pride in making the process as easy and convenient for you as possible. A Tropical professional is always onhand to help!

Congratulations, Port of Palm Beach! 1.800.638.TROP (8767) www. tropical.com CustomerCare@tropical.com

Tropical Shipping commemorated 50 years of service in 2013, and now we are happy to join our friends at the Port of Palm Beach as they mark their centennial. As an anchor lessee, Tropical has always been impressed by the Port’s outstanding management and leadership. On behalf of everyone at Tropical Shipping and our affilliates, congratulations!

Tropical Solutions Tropical is a full-service transportation solutions provider, with a reputation for providing customer service excellence. Tropical’s workforce is highly professional, motivated and committed to exceeding our customers’ expectations. Our stock-in-trade is reliability, convenience, and fast and frequent sailings to The Bahamas and Caribbean.

Tropic Express In 2011, the Tropic Express was christened at the Port of Palm Beach loaded with new refrigerated containers. Tropical operates a fleet of ships sailing from Canada and South Florida to The Bahamas and Caribbean

Celebrating a Milestone Gary, Dytrych, & Ryan P.A. is proud to support Port of Palm Beach. For nearly 20 years, our firm has represented the port as it has helped companies grow and communities prosper.

Congratulations to the Port of Palm Beach

100 Years of Service Port Contractors - Southeast and its sister companies have been an industry leader in the stevedoring and material handling business since the early 1980’s. From our early days of providing innovative solutions in bulk handling and processing, the company has expanded from its Wilmington, DE operation to ports on the East Coast and Gulf Coast, offering stevedoring and marine terminal services along with innovative solutions and value to shippers around the world.

Gary, Dytrych & Ryan P.A. is a general practice law firm which offers a wide range of services with an emphasis on business law, real estate law, bank transaction work, environmental law, land use and zoning law, governmental and administrative law, corporate and partnership law, estate planning and administration, and civil litigation in all courts, state and federal.


Stonerock Shipping congratulates the port on 100 years of Economic Development.

Stonerock Shipping, Operating from the Port of Palm Beach since 2012. Stonerock operates large scale bulk metals export logistics and shipping service out of the Port of Palm Beach, receiving bulk metals by truck, rail, and vessel, then storing and loading onto ships for carriage to major international steel companies abroad. Stonerock partners with U.S. steel companies to insure a solid long term foundation for its success in the export operation at the Port of Palm Beach, which will reach 500,000 tons per year. Stonerock uses state of the art methods to insure safety, security, and environmental safeguard in the operation.

to the

Por Port ort of Palm Pal a m Beach Be each h

A Catalyst for Excellence 100-Year Legacy of Success Congratulations to the Port of Palm Beach for its historic role in serving Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. Akerman is proud to be a part of your Centennial Celebration!

Congratulations C ongratula t tions tto o the P Port ortt of P Palm alm Beach on its c centennial. entennial. T The he Florida Sugar & Molas se es Exchange Exchange has enjoyed enjjoyed a long and successful su uccessful partnership p with the Port. Port. Molasses W e’ve been b moving sugar and an nd molasses molasses through through h the terminal terminal since since 1978. 19 978. In that that time, time, We’ve moving w e’ve embarked em mbarked on more more than th han 2,400 voyages, voyages, amounting amounting to to nearly 55 5 billion pounds we’ve of sugarr and 15 billion pounds pound ds of molasses molasses products produ ucts moving moving through through the Port! Port!



Richard Pinsky Public Policy Manager * West Palm Beach 561.653.5000 richard.pinsky@akerman.com

Akerman LLP | 600+ lawyers | 20 locations | akerman.com ©2015 Akerman LLP. All rights reserved. * Not admitted to the practice of law

Richard Westlund is an award-winning South Florida business writer who has been covering Palm Beach County for more than 25 years. He specializes in economic development, international trade, finance, real estate, education, healthcare, law and other businessrelated topics. He was formerly executive editor of Review Business Publications, and executive business editor at The Miami News, and held editing positions at daily newspapers in Florida, New York and Michigan. He earned a bachelor’s degree in American history, magna cum laude, from Cornell University, and an MBA from the University of Miami.

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