TAMPA — After months of assembly and testing, two enormous gantry cranes at Port Tampa Bay have been readied to unload bigger and heavier container cargo ships.
Local port officials hope the $24 million investment in these new cranes, which are used to unload and load containers from docked barges, will lure new global container business to Tampa through the recently expanded Panama Canal.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio attended a ceremony Friday morning where the two orange and white Post-Panamax gantry cranes were unveiled.
The cranes weigh 1,600 tons each and are 15 stories taller than the three 42-year-old gantry cranes used previously at the port. With a height of more than 300 feet and a reach of 174 feet, the new cranes will let the port handle ships of up nearly twice the size of the largest ships that could be accommodated by the port's old cranes.
"We must look to the future for opportunity," said Paul Anderson, president and CEO of Port Tampa Bay. "We must also recognize the impact of the global economy on the business we're in. Our vision might sound farfetched to some, but it's important that we keep looking ahead."
The port has yet to attract the biggest cargo ships coming from Asia, but local officials hope that the new cranes will help drum up business.
Nearly 80 percent of all ships expected to pass through the recently expanded Panama Canal this year will be hauling container cargo, said Marianela Dengo De De Obaldía, manager of strategic relations for the Panama Canal. Obaldía came to Tampa from Panama specifically for the gantry crane event.
"The container business is an area of growth for Tampa," Obaldía said. "Tampa serves a huge consumer market with its connection to Orlando. Container business will contribute to the warehouse and distribution centers there."
Also in attendance Friday morning was U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores; Cissy Proctor, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity; and Jim Boxold, secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation.
The cranes were built by ZPMC, in Shanghai, China, one of the largest equipment manufacturing companies in the world. The cranes were shipped from Shanghai by boat in January and arrived in Tampa in April.
Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.