It's not every day that you see a pair of cranes that weigh 1,600 tons each pass under the Sunshine Skyway on a barge.
Two gantry cranes, a long-awaited $21.5 million purchase by Port Tampa Bay, arrived Friday morning after an 18-month construction period and a long haul by ship from China. The two cranes will allow Port Tampa Bay to unload larger cargo containers from ships and ultimately attract bigger container ships to Tampa once the expansion of the Panama Canal opens in June.
It's the latest move by Port Tampa Bay, the state's largest seaport in overall size and in weight of cargo freight, to invest millions in making it easier for ships, trucks and trains to import and export goods from downtown Tampa.
"These cranes will allow us to attract ships that can carry bigger loads more efficiently," said Edward Miyagishima, senior adviser at Port Tampa Bay. The expansion of the Panama Canal, which will allow room for bigger ships, will make it easier for them to access Tampa Bay.
The Post-Panamax gantry cranes are 15 stories taller than the three 42-year-old gantry cranes currently in use at the port. Once the new ones are installed by June, one of the three older cranes will be repurposed for parts. The two new cranes will double the capacity of shipping containers that can be unloaded at Port Tampa Bay. They can travel back and forth on a rail track, as containers are picked up one by one for placement and transit. The cranes have a reach of 160 feet, or the equivalent of 19 containers wide. They can lift up to 65 tons.
A long-term plan to expand the shipping container business at the port will eventually expand the current 40-acre facility to 160 acres, said Greg Lovelace, director of cargo and cruise marketing at Port Tampa Bay. The port handles 60,000 containers a year on average, Miyagishima said. Bigger ports in the state, like Miami and Jacksonville, handle close to 1 million containers in a year.
The cranes will be erected and tested over a few weeks before regular operations can begin. They were manufactured by the company ZPMC in Shanghai.
Contact Justine Griffin at email@example.com. Follow @SunBizGriffin.