TAMPA — Paul Anderson has big plans for the years ahead at Port Tampa Bay, and some significant headwinds to overcome along the way.
"When I started this job four years ago I knew there would be challenges," said Anderson, CEO of Port Tampa Bay, during the annual State of the Port address Wednesday. "2016 was off to a slow start. This past year took some hard work. But we got there."
Anderson said that several issues, like the consolidation of global carriers, uncertainty following the U.S. presidential election and new regulations placed on the commodities industry made 2016 a tough year to navigate.
Because of this, the port's annual revenue dropped to $49 million from $51 million, and total cargo remained flat at 37 million tons. But port staff took proactive and strategic steps toward creating opportunities for future growth.
The port purchased two $25 million Post Panamax cranes earlier this year, which allows the port to handle larger ships and build upon its cargo container business with the expansion of the Panama Canal. The port is already underway on building a 130,000-square-foot cold storage facility to receive and ship perishable goods. The port opened a brand new eastern berth that was made using fill dirt from dredging. Other plans are in the works to build upon its car import business from Mexico and luring new cruise ships. Port staff also outlined its longer term goals for its business through 2030 in an updated master plan.
But there are challenges still ahead. The new cranes, which have been operational since this summer, have yet to service a ship the size they were meant to lure to Tampa Bay. No new cars are flowing into Port Tampa Bay from Mexico yet either. And the future of that business is uncertain under President-elect Donald Trump, who has said he wants to impose a 35 percent tariff on cars imported from Mexico.
State and federal funding for dredging and other improvement projects are highly competitive but also essential to continue the growth trajectory at Tampa's port. Port staff is working with lobbyists to secure some of the funding set aside for harbor and infrastructure improvements.
Contact Justine Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.