Turbulent economic seas didn't stop the Port of Tampa from posting record operating revenue of $42 million and eke out a 3 percent boost in operating income, port director Richard Wainio said in his annual State of the Port address Thursday.
Wainio said the Tampa port, like most ports in the nation, has seen cargo activity decline over the past five years, with private terminals hit hardest by the recession. Beyond lessened consumer demand, the port was also hurt by TECO's decision to sell its ocean transport company and begin shipping coal by rail to its Big Bend facility.
On the other hand, steel shipments are up, he said, and the diversity of the port's business lines has helped it through the slump.
Cruise passenger totals reached about 875,000, second-highest only to the year after Hurricane Katrina, when a cruise vessel was temporarily shifted from New Orleans to Tampa. Wainio predicted hitting a record this current fiscal year and breaking the 1 million passenger mark a year from now.
Over the next five years, the port is planning $320 million in new investments, including the expansion of its container terminal. Construction is slated to begin soon on the largest project planned at the port: a $40 million modernization and expansion of its main oil terminal, the primary entry point for gasoline feeding all of west-central Florida's nearly 9 million residents.
Separately on Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott reappointed William "Hoe" Brown to a four-year term on the Tampa Port Authority.
Brown, 54, of Tampa is the president of JB Carrie Properties Inc. He's been on the Port Authority's seven-member board since 2008. His appointment to the board is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.