Storage firm builds facility near Mitsui site

Warehouse's setup designed to serve primarily international cargo carriers

By TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS, The Times-Union

Preparing for the impending arrival of Japanese steamship company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines in the first quarter of 2008, Jacksonville-based Caribbean Shipping is building a 100,000-square-foot warehouse that will enable international cargo to easily be moved to domestic shipping containers.

A six-acre site near Blount Island where the temperature-controlled warehouse will be located will also house Caribbean Shipping's trucking operations. The site should start operations in nine to 14 months.

The company hopes to capitalize upon the expected increase in cargo that comes with Mitsui's arrival: The new operation, which will bring containers into a site at Dames Point, will create the first direct connection between Asia and Jacksonville, drastically increasing the amount of containerized cargo flowing through the port.

"It's going to require a lot of warehousing and a lot of trucking," said Julie Robbins, who co-founded Caribbean Shipping with her husband, Paul.

The type of warehouse Caribbean is having to build in the Alta Lakes Industrial Park is known as a cross-dock facility, which means trucks can pull in and have cargo transferred from container to container without the cargo spending a lot of time sitting around the warehouse.

Caribbean is in discussions with ICS Logistics - a Jacksonville-based giant in the cold-storage logistics industry - to operate the new facility, discussions that come on the heels of ICS signing a deal to run Caribbean's existing facility on Dennis Street.

ICS will lease the Dennis Street facility from Caribbean, although Caribbean will continue to be a customer there. The move, Robbins said, opens the warehouse to a wider range of cargo while Caribbean focuses on its core business: Shipping cargo to Puerto Rico. "We're not in the domestic storage business. ICS is," Robbins said. "It works better for us and for them."

ICS will sign a five-year lease for the facility in February, said Brenda Goble, director of sales and marketing for ICS, while it continues to work on building another warehouse of its own, adding to the huge Westside facility it now operates.

"We are looking at doing something long-term," Goble said, "but we can't put something up like that overnight. This gives us something to work on."