Florida’s ports along the Gulf of Mexico are adding to their infrastructure and entering into agreements aimed at capitalizing upon opportunities, including those related to the energy industry.
While established ports such as Port Manatee, Port Tampa Bay, Port Panama City and the Port of Pensacola are augmenting existing facilities, fledgling Port Citrus and long-dormant Port of Port St. Joe are looking to advance efforts to soon facilitate cargo flows.
Eyeing Florida’s Gulf ports on an individual basis, starting near the entrance to Tampa Bay and then moving to the northwest along the Florida Panhandle:
With the completion of its Berth 14 project, Port Manatee is now able to offer 1,600 feet of contiguous 40-foot-draft berthing area adjacent to the first 10 acres of the South Port Intermodal Terminal, which is to ultimately encompass 52 acres for such purposes as handling of containerized cargo and vehicles.
A memorandum of understanding with The Pasha Group for development and marketing of a full-service, multipurpose roll-on/roll-off terminal, replete with a 172,500-square-foot vehicle processing facility, sets the stage for Port Manatee to benefit from providing the shortest route between burgeoning Mexican auto plants and Florida’s 20 million consumers.
Meanwhile, Port Manatee has established itself as a project cargo trendsetter with the opening of Air Products and Chemical Inc.’s $56.8 million Air Products Port Manatee facility on 32 acres immediately across U.S. 41 from port property. The high export value of Air Products’ LNG heat exchangers – about $100 million apiece – poises to make Port Manatee the fastest-growing export port in Florida. Port Manatee offers the greatest tandem lift capacity among Florida port authorities plus 70 acres of laydown area. Port Tampa Bay
Rebranded earlier this year as Port Tampa Bay, the Tampa Port Authority’s port is advancing on multiple fronts, including tenant International Ship Repair & Marine Services Inc.’s addition of a 275-ton-capacity Manitowoc crawler crane, funded through a U.S. Maritime Administration small shipyard grant of nearly $1 million.
Among efforts to enhance ties with Latin America, Port Tampa Bay has inked a sister port pact with the Port of Barranquilla, Colombia, following a trade mission to Colombia.
Port Tampa Bay officials also are proud of a Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council award recognizing an environmental project to restore wetlands in the McKay Bay ecosystem in Tampa Bay. The same group previously gave the port an award for its public-private partnership development of the Tampa Gateway Rail project, offering on-dock unit train capability and direct ethanol distribution, in concert with CSX Corp. and its TRANSFLO subsidiary, and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners L.P. And the port recently finished a direct elevated highway link to Interstate 4 and nearby I-75.
About 90 miles north of Tampa, the Citrus County Port Authority continues to look toward development of a niche shallow-draft barge port along or near the 15-foot-deep Cross Florida Barge Canal.
Earlier this year, the Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development board approved a feasibility study conducted by TranSystems Corp.
The study notes that Port Citrus could be integrated with a proposed Ocala inland port, as well as Port Tampa Bay and Port Manatee, and perhaps the Port of Jacksonville on the Atlantic Coast.
Port of Port St. Joe
The rebirth of the Port of Port St. Joe, near the center of the Florida Panhandle, has taken another step forward, with receipt of a letter of intent from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with ship channel dredging. The $45 million dredging and disposal endeavor, to bring the channel to its federally authorized 37-foot depth, is targeted for completion by late 2015.
The Port St. Joe Port Authority has received commitments from multiple wood pellet exporters to use the port once it’s ready.
The Port St. Joe community has been looking for an economic boost ever since the 1998 closing of The St. Joe Co.’s paper mill and box plant.
Port Panama City
The latest cargo-handling equipment additions at Port Panama City are two five-high Hyster reach stackers. They are to be joined in November by a new Model 6 Gottwald unit that is to be the Florida Panhandle port’s third mobile harbor crane. Port Panama City is now in the design phase for electrical service and racks to support as many as 200 refrigerated containers.
Just off the port, an intermodal distribution center is expanding, with a 50-acre, rail-served industrial site having just been completed and a 20-car bulk rail transfer facility under design with a target to be ready by the end of first quarter 2015. Also, Port Panama City is anticipating significant benefits from its approval by the London Metal Exchange as a delivery point for exchange-traded copper.
Port of Pensacola
At the western end of the Florida Panhandle, the Port of Pensacola looks to advance its role in serving the offshore energy industry, complementing its traditional strength in handling lumber and other regionally manufactured goods.
The port’s governing body, the Pensacola City Council, in March approved a 30-year lease with Offshore Inland Marine & Oilfield Services Inc. to construct a manufacturing facility at the Port of Pensacola. The facility is to make a new proprietary product for use in the offshore oil and gas industry. At full build-out, the plant is to employ 200 workers with an average annual wage of about $45,000. In addition to the employment and economic impact, the facility is anticipated to provide significant revenue to the port through rent, cargo fees and vessel fees.
The Port of Pensacola already is home to Offshore Inland Marine & Oilfield Services’ Offshore & Subsea Service Center.