Ports along Florida’s Gulf augment their facilities

By: | at 07:00 PM | Channel(s): Ports & Terminals  

By Paul Scott Abbott, AJOTEnhanced container-handling capabilities are among the priorities at Gulf of Mexico ports of Florida, which look to derive both direct and indirect benefits from the expansion of the Panama Canal.
Looking individually at the latest at ports on the Sunshine State’s Gulf Coast, beginning at the south end of Tampa Bay and heading north, then westward along the Florida Panhandle:
PORT MANATEEWith the addition of a $3.9 million mobile harbor crane (see Jan. 28 AJOT), Port Manatee has made a formal foray into the containerized cargo arena. The Manatee County Port Authority facility, situated near the entrance to Tampa Bay, is being billed as the closest US deepwater port to the Panama Canal.
The crane, which entered service in late December, will aid in the movement of boxes for Del Monte Fresh Produce Co., which recently inked a five-year contract renewal with the port, and is anticipated to help attract services of additional container carriers.
Other 2007 milestones for Port Manatee included: Opening of two new berths; finishing of an 11th warehouse, to be used for longtime-staple forest products; state-certified completion of a seagrass transplant effort; and an agreement with a neighboring firm for storage of as many as 20 years of dredge spoil material.
A new port master plan identifies several future projects. Berth 12 dredging and expansion are set to get under way at midyear, while a connector roadway to Interstate 75 is undergoing a design and engineering study.
Beginning this month, Port Manatee is receiving calls in Isabella Shipping Co. Ltd. service, bringing in tropical produce from Colombia and Costa Rica and heading back with such cargos as baled cotton, linerboard, woodpulp and used vehicles.
PORT OF TAMPAFlorida’s largest and most diversified seaport, the Port of Tampa is positioning to grow its container business while also building upon its traditional strengths in bulk and breakbulk markets, which still made up the vast majority of the port’s volume of 45.3 million tons in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2007.
Tampa Port Authority’s acquisition of three used gantry cranes was pivotal in Zim Integrated Shipping Services making Tampa the first inbound call, effective August 2006, of its Asia-Gulf Express service, which Zim shares with Emirates Shipping Line. Officials of the authority and terminal operator Ports America are hoping to bring additional all-water container services into the fold at what they are promoting as the closest full-service US port to the Panama Canal. Port executives also are gaining momentum in location of distribution centers in the area, which boasts 8 million consumers within a 100-mile radius.
The Port of Tampa’s Hooker’s Point Container Terminal, which already includes 1,800 linear feet of berthing, is being expanded, with 300 more feet of dock on 43-foot-deep water to be finished by June. There is sufficient vacant land to accommodate expansion of the existing 25-acre container terminal to an area of more than 100 acres.
A direct highway connector between the port and Interstate 4 is scheduled for completion in 2012.
PORT OF PANAMA CITYWhile not anticipating direct benefits from the Panama Canal expansion, officials of the mid-Panhandle Port of Panama City, Fla., are looking forward to gains they believe will be associated with an overall boosting of the prominence of Gulf Coast maritime facilities in global shipping.
The port has recently completed a container yard expansion and interchange gate improvements and anticipates completion of new bulk-handling facilities by month’s end, to time with the March startup of Green Circle BioEnergy Inc.’s plant in nearby Jackson County. The $80 million plant is designed to produce more than 500,000 tons a year of wood pellets, which, beginning in April, are to begin being exported on ships to be loaded every three to four weeks.
BBC Chartering & Logistic is beginning regular calls at Panama City this month,

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For more than a quarter of a century, Paul Scott Abbott has been writing and shooting images for the American Journal of Transportation, applying four decades of experience as an award-winning journalist. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, with a master’s magna cum laude from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Abbott has served as president of chapters of the Propeller Club of the United States, Florida Public Relations Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Abbott honed his skills on several daily newspapers, including [em]The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Richmond (Va.) News Leader, Albuquerque Journal and (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel, and was editor and publisher of The County Line, a weekly newspaper he founded in suburban Richmond, Va.[/em] A native Chicagoan, he is a member of American Mensa and an ever-optimistic fan of the Chicago Cubs.