Tampa Bay reopens to ship traffic after heavy fog closed bay for much of day

Published Jan. 29, 2016

TAMPA — Dense fog closed Port Tampa Bay for much of the day Thursday, preventing a Carnival Cruise ship and other vessels from entering or leaving.

The Carnival Paradise was schedule to arrive in downtown Tampa at Cruise Terminal 3 at 8 a.m. Thursday after sailing to Grand Cayman and Cozumel for five days.

However, the heavy fog, which obscured the tops of downtown buildings and hung over the bay, limiting visibility on the bridges, made it impossible for the ship to enter the bay through the Skyway Bridge and make its way to Port Tampa Bay.

The Paradise was supposed to depart again at 4 p.m. Thursday, but that sailing was postponed until today, according to a statement from Carnival Cruise Lines.

That original four-day cruise to Cozumel was modified to a three-day cruise that will not stop at any ports, Carnival said. Passengers who sail on the modified itinerary will receive a 50 percent refund on the cruise and a 50 percent discount on a future Carnival cruise.

The Carnival ship wasn't the only vessel delayed by the fog. Ten other cargo ships also waited for the fog to lift so they could enter the port, said Coast Guard spokesman David Schuhlein.

The port reopened shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday when visibility increased to 2 nautical miles.

"They're confident the weather will hold and continue to improve overnight," Schuhlein said. "That gives the captains the visibility to move their ships into the port."

Those ships were carrying petroleum and other general cargo. Schuhlein said none of the ships was carrying materials that would create an emergency if they couldn't arrive on time.

A German cruise ship, the AidaVita, was the only vessel in the port that had been delayed from leaving due to the fog.

The National Weather Service said visibility was limited to less than a mile during most of the day.

"Here in Tampa and St. Pete, that's pretty rare that we'd close inbound and outbound traffic," Schuhlein said. "Obviously, if there was a hurricane, that would be different, but it's not a common occurrence here."

Contact Caitlin Johnston at or (813) 226-3401. Follow @cljohnst.