Fort Pierce Atlantic Caribbean Line workers furloughed until more business comes in

FORT PIERCE, Fla. - According to shipping company Atlantic Caribbean Line, a bad economy has hit the cargo business hard.

"We had done fairly well until about a year and a half ago, and all of a sudden, things started slowing down," said ACL Government Relations Manager Ken Roberts.

Roberts said the company's main cargo is from construction projects in the Bahamas. That country's economic slowdown is affecting the Fort Pierce-based company.

"Most of those projects have come to a halt in the last two years, so we lost approximately half of our business that way," he explained. "We've not been able to get enough work to keep the ship busy."

In July, the Port of Fort Pierce's only tenant announced it laid off 34 of its 45 crew members. Now, with the Christopher Dean ship docked again, the company says it can't afford its remaining workers until more business comes.

"We're just keeping it here for the time being, until we know what we're doing," said Roberts. "We're sending part of the crew on temporary vacation, for, I don't know, two weeks, maybe three weeks."

Roberts said these most-recently affected workers are a small part of a bigger picture of an economic ripple effect that he estimates is about $3 million dollars a year for the city. A recent County Commission meeting approved emergency dredging, and he said that would allow larger vessels to navigate the port's waters.

"The county is now working on that problem and getting some emergency dredging done, hopefully within the next month or two, and that would help bring some more business in for us," he said.

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