Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Business

Tampa port pitches incentives to lure cargo stuck in supply chain logjam

Backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, port leaders from around the state called for companies to send their cargo ships to Florida.
In recent years, Port Tampa Bay has expanded its cranes and other container services in attempts to boost its container business. With container ships backing up off major ports on both coasts, leading to a supply chain logjam, Port Tampa Bay and other Florida ports are making a pitch for companies to start sending more of their cargo business to Florida.
In recent years, Port Tampa Bay has expanded its cranes and other container services in attempts to boost its container business. With container ships backing up off major ports on both coasts, leading to a supply chain logjam, Port Tampa Bay and other Florida ports are making a pitch for companies to start sending more of their cargo business to Florida.
Published Oct. 19
Updated Oct. 19

Cargo ships keep backing up at major ports in cities like Los Angeles and Savannah, Ga., leading to supply chain logjams that have kept prices up and retail shelves empty.

In response, Florida ports like Port Tampa Bay are seizing the chance to make a business pitch: Start sending some of that cargo our way.

“I’m here for one simple reason, (which) is to ask the shippers around the world, those that own cargo, I want your business,” Port Tampa Bay president and CEO Paul Anderson said during a news conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Florida port leaders in Jacksonville on Tuesday. “Reroute your cargo to come to Florida. We stand ready to offer you incentives that will make it ideal in cost savings.”

Bringing in cargo business just happens to align with Port Tampa Bay’s broader, longer-term goal of diversifying its revenue beyond cruise travel and bulk and dry goods. That makes Tuesday’s messaging less of a direct reaction to the supply-chain crisis, and more of a push to spin the crisis to Tampa’s advantage.

“We have said for many years, reroute your thinking,” said Raul Alfonso, Port Tampa Bay’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer, echoing one of the port’s main international marketing messages. “This is something that we have been discussing with all the retailers that serve Florida. Use Tampa, a centralized location. It’s a better supply chain (point). Come away from Savannah, Ga. We don’t need to be fed from out-of-state ports. That’s the message that the state of Florida is having.”

Related: Here's why the supply chain is still a mess, and will be for a while

The port is already expanding its container operations, which have steadily grown in spite of the pandemic. General cargo generated only about 9 percent of the port’s revenues in the most recent fiscal year, which ended in September, but that is expected to rise next year and beyond. In terms of volume, the port has projected a 32 percent increase in general container cargo as measured in 20-foot-equivalent boxes, an industry standard.

While port officials didn’t discuss specific financial incentives on Tuesday, spokesperson Lisa Wolf-Chason said the port was working with cargo terminal operator Ports America to offer “extremely competitive” all-inclusive rates for larger container services, including ocean carriers that can deliver at least 25,000 full 40-foot-equivalent containers per year. A recent port report found that major regional importers already support the rerouting of 1,500 such containers to Port Tampa Bay each week.

“We feel confident that we could add one or more trans-Pacific services soon,” Alfonso said. “It’s all about the economics and the readiness of the retailers. We’re talking about Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot. ... They have been evaluating Tampa.”

Follow trends affecting the local economy

Follow trends affecting the local economy

Subscribe to our free Business by the Bay newsletter

We’ll break down the latest business and consumer news and insights you need to know every Wednesday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options
Related: Cruising is back in Tampa Bay with first ship in 18 months

Other ports are offering incentives of their own. The Jacksonville Port Authority will offer “negotiable” rates on a per-container basis for new ocean carrier services, said spokesperson Chelsea Kavanagh.

At Tuesday’s press event in Jacksonville, DeSantis repeated a key concern for consumers about the supply chain backup, which is that some overseas products might not arrive stateside before the holidays.

“We want to make sure that Americans get the goods they need, especially as we approach the Christmas season,” he said. “I can only imagine if we don’t ameliorate some of this by then. Last-minute shoppers, like me, we’re going to show up and not be able to get anything. We’re not going to be able to get anything delivered. So that’ll cause a lot of heartburn.”

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, a port commissioner, is already on it, she said while recounting a recent conversation with a top U.S. Department of Transportation official.

“I told him we would save Christmas,” she said. “That might have been a big promise. But I did indicate that Tampa could save Christmas.”