TAMPA — The Tampa Port Authority took steps on Tuesday to secure its immediate future — and its far-flung future.
First, the port's governing board voted to spend $320,000 in federal grant money to buy a new security system that will incorporate different monitoring devices — such as security cameras, motion sensors and radar — into one comprehensive system that will secure the port by land and sea.
After that vote, the board heard from consultants who will spend the next year putting together a new master plan, one that will guide the next two decades of growth at Port Tampa Bay.
The new "maritime domain awareness and anomaly detection system" will not only combine several modes of monitoring the port, but it will also send those feeds to the port's security offices and record and archive the date so it can be examined later.
"If we have an incident, say an accident between two vessels, this system will document the activity ongoing at that time," said Mark Dubina, the port's vice president of security. "We can go back and help the investigators find out how the incident occurred."
The system will also help the port more closely monitor inclement weather affecting port operations, and help port officials monitor smaller vessels that do not automatically send the port information about their movements.
As for the master plan, the board will find out the price tag after next month's meeting, though it is expected to exceed the $250,000 the port can spend without board approval. The last master plan was finished in 2008.
Five firms have been retained to examine the port's future operations in terms of business, marketing, operations, planning, engineering, the environment, security, finances, transportation and land use. The port is already conducting a separate master plan study for the port's properties around Channelside Bay Plaza in downtown Tampa. That report will be incorporated into the final Port Tampa Bay master plan.
The new master plan will take into consideration the changing landscape of the cargo business, said James Brennan, a partner with the consulting firm Norbridge. Some trends the port must be prepared for include new trade shipping routes generated by the completion of the Panama Canal expansion; the "reshoring" of manufacturing centers from Asia back to North America; and the growing use of automated systems for unloading cargo.
But the good news for Port Tampa Bay, he said, is that it has 5,000 acres to build on in an era when industrial waterfront land will become increasingly scarce. "The port is ideally situated … to take advantage of these opportunities," Brennan said.
Jamal Thalji can be reached at (813) 226-3404, firstname.lastname@example.org or @jthalji on Twitter.