Port Tampa Bay plans $10 million in cruise ship terminal upgrades

The work at the port's Cruise Terminals 2, 3 and 6 will be done between May and October of 2019 and 2020, the cruise ship industry's off-season for Tampa.
Published December 24 2018

TAMPA — Port Tampa Bay is moving ahead on a plan to do about $10 million in renovations to three of its cruise ship terminals, but not right away.

Construction will begin next May on interior improvements and the addition of new escalators in Cruise Terminals 2 and 6. Cruise Terminal 2 also will get renovations so that it will no longer be limited to so-called “closed-loop” cruises that begin and end in Tampa with no passengers boarding the ship from foreign ports.

In 2018, the port hit a million passengers for the first time in its history, with four cruise lines — Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Norwegian — offering 4- to 14-day trips to Mexico, Cuba and the western and southern Caribbean.

RECORD GROWTH: Port Tampa Bay marks 1 million cruise ship passengers in a year for the first time ever

While the cruise industry's so-called megaships, for up to 6,000 passengers, can't fit under the Sunshine Skyway bridge, the port has managed to grow its cruise ship business by nearly a fifth since 2016 by bringing in smaller refurbished ships. In May, for example, Royal Caribbean brought in a larger ship, the 880-foot-long Majesty of the Seas, with a capacity of 2,700 passengers, in response to increased demand for sailings to Havana.

To keep up with the growth, the port’s board voted this month to negotiate a construction services agreement with Gilbane Building Co. of Tampa, the highest ranked of five firms that bid on the project.

Gilbane’s projected total cost of just more than $10 million was only about $60,000 less than the estimate of the second-ranked firm, Reno Building of Tampa. The companies submitted a guaranteed maximum price for the first phase of the project, which each expected to cost more than $5 million, and an estimate for the second phase.

Next year, the top-ranked firm will submit a guaranteed maximum price for the second phase of the project. If that price is 5 percent or more higher than its original estimate, the port could negotiate a separate contract for phase two with the next highest ranked firm, or it could rebid that part separately.

“Gilbane knows that they would have to keep their price low in order to get the second part of this job,” port vice president of engineering Bruce Laurion told port board members last week .

Both phases are scheduled to take place during the cruise industry off-season between May and October of 2019 and 2020, respectively. The second phase involves work at Cruise Terminal 3, which includes the addition of a second escalator and renovations to meet federal requirements for the Customs and Border Protection processing area.

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Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times