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Port of Tampa sees bright spots amid down year

The local housing bust and global economic malaise cut into cargo volume at the Port of Tampa. Business likely won't pick up before the end of next year, port director Richard Wainio told a gathering of maritime business professionals Thursday.

"Unfortunately, the bottom hasn't been reached (and) 2009 will be another year of decline for most elements of the economy both nationally and in Florida," he said in his annual State of the Port address.

Ships carried 42.6-million tons of cargo that moved through Tampa Port Authority and private terminals for the public agency's fiscal year ending Sept. 30, a decline of 6 percent from a year earlier. Construction materials fell most sharply, with steel down 67 percent and cement off 60 percent.

Refined petroleum products, the port's biggest commodity, fell nearly 8 percent. There was one bright spot: shipments of phosphate and fertilizer, the port's No. 2 cargo, increased 2 percent.

Wainio focused mostly on projects that should boost port business as the global economy starts to bounce back, including:

• A $70-million storage facility to store and distribute gasoline, oil and biofuels shipped into the port. The terminal, owned by a subsidiary of International Oil Trading Co., will be among the biggest at the port, with 15 to 25 tanks and a capacity of 1.1-million barrels. Operations should start by early 2010.

• A plant designed to make biodiesel from vegetable oils and animal fats. GreenHunter Energy, based near Dallas, will spend nearly $70-million to build the plant at Port Sutton by the end of 2010.

• An expansion of the port's cargo container terminal. Work will begin next year on the first phase of a project that will eventually quadruple the terminal's size and could cost upward of $100-million.

• Negotiations with Holland America Lines to replace its 1,300-passenger cruise ship Veendam with a newer 2,000-passenger ship in fall 2010. Cruise passenger traffic held up fairly well during the fiscal year, Wainio said, down 2 percent.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Port of Tampa sees bright spots amid down year 12/04/08 [Last modified: Thursday, December 4, 2008 10:42pm]
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