1. Business

Tariffs continue to hold down steel imports to Tampa

Rolls of steel are offloaded from a ship at Port Tampa Bay last August. CHRIS URSO | Times
Published May 21

TAMPA — The Trump administration's tariffs on foreign-produced steel depressed shipments of steel arriving at Port Tampa Bay by 19 percent over a six-month period, though port officials say they have reason for optimism going forward.

Steel deliveries dropped from about 141,300 tons for the period from October through March of last year to about 114,600 tons for the time between last October and March. The port saw a similar but smaller dropoff for a nine-month period ending last June after tariffs drove prices for both domestic and imported steel from about 48 to 60 cents per pound.

In the spring of 2018, after President Trump tweeted that "trade wars are good, and easy to win," his administration imposed a 25 percent tariff, or import tax, on steel imported from Canada, Mexico and the European Union. That prompted those countries to retaliate with tariffs increasing the cost of certain U.S. goods.

'It's going to reverberate through the economy': Tampa Bay and Florida businesses expect tariffs to drive prices up

"The tariff situation definitely has had some impact," but port officials are encouraged by the fact that there are four ships en route to Tampa carrying 20,000 tons of steel coil and pipe expected to arrive in the next three weeks, said said Wade Elliott, the port's vice president for marketing and business development. "We do feel fairly optimistic going forward the next few months that steel will continue to recover."

Also helpful, Elliott said, were the Trump administration's announcements earlier this month that it had reached an agreement to end steel tariffs on Canada and Mexico and that it would cut in half its tariff on steel from Turkey, a major source of steel coming in from the Tampa Bay area.

Steel imports make up less than 1 percent of the port's cargo, which is dominated by liquid cargo (mostly petroleum and liquid sulphur) and dry bulk cargo like phosphate and limestone. Overall, bulk cargo shipments rose about 1 percent for the six months in question, with significant increases coming from liquid sulphur, limestone and cement. Meanwhile, the number of containers coming into the port is up 17 percent and the number of cruise ship passengers was up 50 percent for the first six months of the year, putting the port on a pace again to break the 1 million-passenger mark for the year.

Port approves lease for cement plant

Watch for more cement — in particular, an expensive variety used in swimming pools known as white cement — coming into the port in the future.

The port's board approved a 20-year lease with SESCO Cement, which has U.S. operations in Houston and Fort Lauderdale and plans to build a $19 million plant on 7 acres at Port Redwing. The plant is expected to open in early 2022 and have a staff of 10 full-time and 20 part-time employees. Rent for the site would ramp up as the plant is permitted, built and begins operations, reaching $189,000 a year in the sixth year of operations.

"We're really looking at this to be our east coast hub for our business going forward," said Alim Adatia, a Houston-based representative of the company. SESCO looked to expand in South Florida first, but decided on Tampa because it provided a better location from which to serve growth taking place as far north as Orlando. The company also wants to get involved with the community and local government, as it has done on a beautification initiative in Houston. "We want to be a known entity, and we hope to be here for a long time."

MORE: Go here for more Business News

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


  1. This satellite image shows Hurricane Michael on Oct. 9, 2018, as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. It made landfall near Mexico Beach in the Panhandle as a Category 5 storm. [Photo courtesy of NOAA] NOAA
    Nearly a year after the storm, 18,000 claims are still open.
  2. Watermans Crossing apartments at 4515 N. Rome Avenue in Tampa. Westside Capital Group
    Jakub Hejl discovered the Tampa Bay area while studying at IMG Academy.
  3. The Tampa Bay Lightning has tapped Cigar City Brewing to bring its Jai Alai, Guayabera, and Florida Cracker beers to Amalie Arena as the team’s official craft beer partner. (Photo via Tampa Bay Lightning) Tampa Bay Lightning
    Cigar City also will move its popular annual Hunahpu’s Beer Festival to Amalie Arena starting next March.
  4. An administrative judge said a Pasco County ordinance allowing solar farms in agricultural districts did not violate the county's comprehensive land-use plan. Times
    An ordinance did not violate the county’s land-use plan that is supposed to protect rural Northeast Pasco, a judge said.
  5. Energy-efficient LED light bulbs. (Times | 2008) St. Petersburg Times
    Trump’s administration recently scrapped a rule that would have phased out incandescent light bulbs.
  6. For sale sign on a  Tampa Bay home. [SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN | Times]
    It pays to shop around for the lowest rate, new study shows.
  7. President Donald Trump speaks at the 2019 House Republican Conference Member Retreat Dinner in Baltimore on Sept. 12. JOSE LUIS MAGANA  |  AP
    The country is moving in that direction, though.
  8. This Jan. 31, 2017 photo shows the entrance to SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    Gustavo “Gus” Antorcha cited a “difference of approach.”
  9. Gas prices could surge over the coming days because of a sharp drop in Saudi Arabia’s oil production. Pictured is a man filling up his car. | [Times file photo]
    A weekend drone strike on an oil processing facility caused the kingdom to cut production in half.
  10. TECO Peoples Gas ranked highest among its peers in the South for J.D. Power customer satisfaction rankings. Pictured is the company's headquarters in Tampa in 2017. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times (2017)] URSO, CHRIS  |  Tampa Bay Times
    It ranked as the top utility for customer satisfaction among midsize utilities in the south.