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Tampa port will get foreign trade zone

A foreign trade zone will be established at the Port of Tampa within the next 60 to 90 days as part of an effort to boost business and draw new tenants to the port.

The new trade zone will be located on port-owned property on Hooker's Point near downtown, said John Darsey, executive director of the Tampa Foreign Trade Zone Board.

Once it's in place, companies that operate in that area can take advantage of such benefits as deferred duty charges on foreign goods that are stored on site or used in manufacturing and assembly, Darsey said.

At least one business is getting ready for the new zone. The Tampa Port Authority Board on Tuesday approved a lease agreement for S/J Marine Supply, which sells supplies to cruise lines and other ships.

S/J Marine would be able to import beer, wine or other products, store them and sell to ships without incurring duty charges, Darsey said.

The trade zone gives officials a new marketing tool, said Joe Valenti, port director. "It may be an incentive (for new port customers) to come in," he said.

The city of Tampa received a grant in 1982 to establish such zones, and since then has added several, including one at Tampa International Airport and one near the University of South Florida.

Pinellas County received its own grant in February with plans to establish foreign trade zones at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport and at the Port of St. Petersburg.

In other port news, the board approved an additional $423,000 to continue planning and development work for the Garrison Seaport Center, a multimillion-dollar project planned for port property near downtown Tampa. The project would include the Florida Aquarium, now under construction, cruise ship terminals, the proposed Whydah Complex and a proposed music amphitheater.