TAMPA — Port Tampa Bay said Monday it is getting another weekly container ship from Asia, its third since December.
The new service will start toward the end of this summer and consist of a rotation of 10 ships carrying about 4,500 containers each, though only a fraction of those will be unloaded in Tampa.
In December, the port announced that Cosco Shipping was adding Tampa to a weekly service that from Shanghai and three other Chinese ports. Last month, the port welcomed its biggest freight ship ever, carrying about 8,500 containers, from the CMA CGM Group. The newest service comes via a parternship between three shipping companies: Israel-based ZIM Integrated Shipping Services and Mediterranean Shipping Co. of Switzerland, which have shipped goods between Tampa and Caribbean for years, plus a newcomer to the port, Maersk, headquartered in Denmark.
Once known chiefly for shipping phosphate and other bulk cargo, the port has been working since the recession to diversify its lines of business by attracting more cruise ships, building a cold-storage warehouse for produce and expanding its capacity to handle shipping containers.
In 2016, the port spent $24 million to install two much-larger gantry cranes to unload bigger ships coming through an expanded Panama Canal. It also has touted Tampa's proximity to the distribution hubs that have sprung up on the Interstate 4 corridor. Sending cargo through Tampa, the port estimates, could save shippers $800 per container compared with sending it to a bigger port like Savannah and then trucking it into Florida. Along the way, it even trademarked part of its pitch to shippers: "Reroute your thinking."
"We are confident this new service will be very well-received by Florida importers and exporters with its competitive transit times to (and) from Asia and connections to other markets across the globe," Port Tampa Bay president and chief executive officer Paul Anderson said in announcing the service.
Between the three new ships, the port is targeting the delivery of 1,500 to 2,000 shipping containers per week, or 500 or more per ship.
"We know our market is large enough and this is going to be in demand," port executive vice president and chief commercial officer Raul Alfonso said. For the 12 months ending in June, the port saw 97,000 containers, a 25 percent increase over the same period a year ago, so adding another thousand or more containers per week would represent another significant increase.
The first ship in the new service is scheduled to leave Xiamen in southeastern China on Aug. 16, and call at Yantian in China, Busan in South Korea, then cross the Pacific Ocean and the Panama Canal on its way to Houston, Mobile, Ala., and Tampa before heading back west.
As part of its cargo expansion plan, the port has applied for Army Corps of Engineers approval to dredge 67 acres of the East Bay estuary near the Tampa Shrimp Docks. The project, called East Port, would create four new deep-water berths and three shallower ones at an estimated cost of $250 million to $300 million over 15 years or more.
Contact Richard Danielson at email@example.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times