Twin Rivers opens Port after 20-year hiatus

Twin Rivers opens Port after 20-year hiatus
Posted on 05/17/2021
Twin RiversDavid Adlerstein

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 Cortes, Honduras.

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,” said Goodman.

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 expensive.

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 said.

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.”