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Jacksonville Port Awash In Sea Of Imports Despite Pollution Problem

June 4, 1987

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ The nation’s largest port of entry for imported cars and trucks is awash in a sea of vehicles and expects a record year, despite air-pollution problems that had earlier threatened the title.

Jacksonville Port Authority officials expect a record 608,000 cars and trucks will cross their docks in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, an 8 percent increase from last year’s record 565,000 imports.

More than 31,000 cars and trucks are now parked at the JPA’s Blount Island Marine Terminal, in the St. Johns River off downtown Jacksonville, and officials said Wednesday that there have never been more vehicles there at one time.

Cars are parked everwhere: on blacktop, on the sides of roads, in dirt fields.

Sallyn Steuber, JPA spokeswoman, said there is plenty of room for more, and expects there could soon be as many as 50,000 cars on the island because of the expansion of existing accounts.

″It’s a nice problem to have,″ added Cliff Mendoza, JPA deputy managing director. ″We’re laying pavement as fast as we can.″

Officials said there is a number of reasons why the parking lots are so full.

Import sales are down and the vehicles are sitting longer on the docks, said Thomas O’Grady, an auto analyst with Integrated Automotive Resources in Wayne, Pa.

″Dealers can only handle so many. The rest tend to back up on us,″ said Vic McNair, executive vice president of World Cars Inc., an auto-procesisng company.

Although sales are sluggish, the Japanese manufactureres continue to ship cars to Jacksonville to meet that country’s export quota.

Another reason for the Blount Island congestion is the addition of new business. Mazda has relocated from docks near downtown to Blount Island. In addition, World Cars has picked up contracts with Hyundai, Suzuki and Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln-Mercury-Mercur division. The port is expecting its first Korean-built Ford Fiestas later this month.

The port went through a scare last year when BMW of North America stopped shipping cars through Jacksonville, saying industrial fallout was damaging the paint on cars.

It has moved its operations to Brunswick, Ga.

The pollution problem was studied by a committee that came up with ways to monitor the problem and worked to identify the sources of the fallout.

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