Diversity among seaports is a concept not only understood but exemplified with Port Tampa Bay. Known as Florida’s largest seaport in both acreage and tonnage, with more than 34 million tons of cargo handled annually, Port Tampa Bay demonstrates industry breadth through its cargo diversification, cruise passengers and real estate strategies to keep pace with the central part of the Sunshine State’s blistering growth.
Through its purposeful investment and master planning approach, the management team has made great strides in recent years connecting transportation methods, logistics, warehousing and even manufacturing to support and grow the region’s largest economic engine. As its 2018 fiscal year saw an unprecedented number of major announcements related to growth, Port Tampa Bay is already seeing more growth in fiscal year 2019.
Cargo diversity, real estate and proximity to growth are the major differentiators that have enabled Port Tampa Bay to leverage itself and grow.
“I found a tremendous convergence of opportunity when I arrived,” said Paul Anderson, Port Tampa Bay’s president and CEO. “I knew I wanted to maintain and expand a diverse portfolio, capitalizing on our land assets and building the infrastructure to serve more customers and Florida’s growth more efficiently.”
As a result, officials understood that Port Tampa Bay’s most valuable position within the market could only be achieved through analyzing industry benchmarks, investing in infrastructure and capitalizing on opportunities by listening to the perspectives of carriers and beneficial cargo owners before implementing strategic initiatives. By gaining a thorough understanding of market conditions on a domestic and international level, Port Tampa Bay has successfully become the largest economic influencer in the Western Florida region, responsible for a more than $17 billion in economic impact while generating more than 85,000 jobs.
Port Tampa Bay’s cargo portfolio includes all major categories, from liquid bulk and dry bulk to containers, automobiles, break-bulk and more. Additionally, the port serves as one of the largest shipbuilding and repair handlers in the Southeast United States. It is also a top 10 cruise homeport, and last year the 1 million mark was surpassed for passengers sailing from Port Tampa Bay.
One of the world’s premier fertilizer export ports continues leading in both the liquid and dry-bulk arenas, thanks to the likes of global exporters Amalie Oil and Mosaic. Through these connections, Port Tampa Bay supports the reach of more than 100 countries and helps to feed the world.
On the break-bulk side, Tampa Tank/Florida Structural Steel helps to anchor several steel fabricators and related businesses, making the port a significant mover in this business segment. Furthermore, the port has developed about 290 acres of land to help continue its efforts handling steel, dry bulk and other commodities.
Furthering its diversity and strategic master planning approach, the port developed a new on-dock cold storage facility and a dedicated automobile terminal fully equipped to process the anticipated expansion of vehicle production in Mexico and the Southeast.
Looking to the future, Port Tampa Bay has major plans in the works to expand overall capacity and infrastructure from docks and terminals to land tracts and parcels supportive of increased containers and break-bulk cargos. A total of $380 million is projected to support the port’s expansion efforts over the next five years. Through this budgeting and robust development planning, the port projects expanding its container terminal capacity to 160 acres–essentially quadrupling current capacity and attracting new services.
All of this vision, planning and investment has already paid off in a couple of very big ways. COSCO Shipping in December announced Port Tampa Bay’s first direct Asia weekly call service, followed by a second announcement in February by CMA CGM to expand its global container reach. Secondly, in April, Port Tampa Bay completed a major navigational improvement on its Big Bend channel, deepening and widening to accommodate larger ships.
More accomplished was how the project was pulled off: by first assembling a public-private partnership that included five stakeholders and maintaining its cohesiveness for several years. The improved channel can now service the approximately 290 acres of new terminal operations and capacity among port tenants.
Throughout all of Port Tampa Bay’s projects and new business expansion are the common themes of vision, strategic planning, investment and expertise. “That and listening to what our customers need to increase their efficiency and/or speed to market is what it is all about,” Anderson says.
These elements continue to provide Port Tampa Bay with ideas that increase economic impact, import/export efficiencies, and just as importantly, sustainable growth.