Sunday’s arrival of the foreign flag ship M/V UBC Saiki in St. Joe Bay signaled the opening of the St. Joe Port to the international
shipping world for the first time in over 20 years.
The port reopening has for many years been the mission of
husband-and-wife team Clay and Ashley Crosby, owners of Twin Rivers Company.
“It’s big,” said Ashley Crosby, as she described not only
the more than 500-foot-long ship, as well as the project in the days leading up
to Sunday’s arrival.
Clay Crosby proudly displayed the international identifier
shipping label with Port St. Joe on it “USPSJ,” letting the world know the Port
in St. Joe is back in business.
Eight months ago, Twin Rivers established a wood chipping
yard on the bulkhead of the old papermill next to the new Eastern Shipbuilding
yard. Since then the company has been accumulating wood chips while working
tenaciously to obtain the permits to begin shipping wood chips to Puerto
Twin Rivers, a longtime successful land and timber company,
expanded their business service line 15 months ago to include the export
business. Justin Goodman, Twin Rivers’ operations manager and head stevedore,
oversees the full terminal and manages the web of logistics that come with a
project of this size.
“We are off to a great start, and we are all excited for the
upcoming months as we continue to show the world that USPSJ is open for trade,”
CMC, a Slidell Louisiana-based company that previously
worked the Keystone XL pipeline project, is providing the barge and tug
services. “Pulling this group of skilled, hardworking people into our project
after an industry shakeup has added tremendous benefit to the terminal project,”
said the Crosbys.
“Kudos go out to Twin Rivers for their effort in navigating
the myriad of permitting and international trade issues necessary to establish
the terminal and shipping operation,” said Jim McKnight, director of the Gulf
County Economic Development Coalition. “Their 54 employees working on site
today are eating their meals locally, buying supplies for the crew and terminal
downtown and have found a place to live or are being housed in local hotels. We
appreciate that they have committed their personal resources to establish a
business in Gulf County without asking for much assistance.”
The M/V UBC Saiki ship flies the flag of Cyprus and has
hauling capacity of 20,000 metric tons of wood chips. The ship, moored off
Windmark Beach, is being loaded mid-stream by barges transporting the wood
chips from the bulkhead to the ship, a time-consuming process that is
The inability to dock a ship at the bulkhead exposes the
weakness of the Port with its too shallow shipping channel and bulkhead areas. McKnight
The Port Authority and county are applying for funding to
address these issues. In the meantime, Twin Rivers has used out-of-the-box
thinking and well-planned logistics to prove the port is worth opening and the
opportunities are endless.
“But dredging is a need that has to be addressed, sooner rather
than later,” McKnight said.
“This is a long-term project that will provide Twin Rivers
the ability to create an outlet for non-merchantable timber and woody material
left behind after Hurricane Michael,” said Clay Crosby. “The woody biomass
located in the Gulf County area is desperately needed in Honduras to fuel their
biomass plans that provides renewable energy for textile facilities.”