Port Panama City

Expansion of the Port of Panama City’s East Terminal will include a new 200,000-square-foot on-dock warehouse

Perhaps the biggest news for Port Panama City in 2023 was the November announcement the Port had been awarded a $11.25 million Port Infrastructure Development Program grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) for the expansion of the East Terminal. This project will include a new 200,000-square-foot (SF) on-dock warehouse to increase Port Panama City’s cargo handling capacity. Alex King, Executive Director, Port Panama City at the time noted, “I also would like to thank our Federal, State, and Local leaders for their tremendous support as we develop the East Terminal into a world class port facility.”

The East Terminal project that King referred to in his remarks is a key to ongoing efforts of the Port’s administration to improve and expand the cargo handling at the Port’s facilities.

The Port holds a unique role in the region’s port composition as it has become the “breakbulk” port alternative for many of the region’s shippers. Indeed, Port Panama City handled more than 450,000 tons of breakbulk forest products and lumber in FY 2022, with 230,000 tons of that cargo moving through the East Terminal which opened for operation in 2020.

A result, which brings us back to the importance of the grant. The East Terminal Expansion Project will create 337 jobs, $30 million in personal income and local consumption and $2.7 million in State and Local Taxes. This will enable the Port to add to the 11,000 jobs currently supported, $1.6 billion economic impact, and over 2 million tons of cargo handled annually.

Port Panama City invested $66 million on the first phase of The East Terminal, which commenced operations in 2020. This expansion included the construction of a 260,000 SF warehouse, improved road and rail development, a modern bulkhead, and the deepening of the East Channel and turning basin. With the successful completion of Phase One, the Port is now embarking on the second phase of development of the East Terminal. As King noted the ward offers, “a wonderful opportunity to expand operations at Port Panama City, which is committed to increasing cargo activity that will foster economic growth and create good paying jobs not only in Bay County but in the Northwest Florida region.”

The award news overshadowed some of the other improvements that were made in the port’s infrastructure in 2023. In early November the Port held the commissioning ceremony for the opening of the long awaited biodome. The 105-foot high, $17 million dollar biodome had been under construction for two years. The biodome can store 20,000 tons of wood pellets which are moved from the dome to ships bound for European markets.

The wood pellets contribute to a diverse cargo mix, which includes copper, linerboard, wood pulp, steel plate, steel pipe, steel coils and flexible pipe. The Port’s primary bulk commodities include dry bulk, such as wood pellets, aggregates, and liquid bulk, such as molasses and d’limonene. In addition, containerized cargo service between Progreso, Mexico, and Port Panama City continues to be a vital part of the Port’s cargo base. Overall, with the infrastructure improvements the Port believes the cargo tonnage will run between 2.1 million to 2.4 million tons annually.

SeaPort Manatee

Imports of Aquila power catamaran yachts for Clearwater, FL-based MarineMax Inc. totaled 237,122 tons in FY 2023.

SeaPort Manatee is another Florida port that offers a diverse mix of services including 10 deep-draft berths that handle container, liquid, and dry bulk, breakbulk, heavylift, project and general cargo. And speaking of liquid bulk, in November 2023, SeaPort Manatee signed a five-year agreement with Citrosuco North America Inc., a global importer of natural citrus juices. Under the new five-year deal, 24 Citrosuco vessels call a year are anticipated at SeaPort Manatee, generating an estimated $3 million in annual revenue for Manatee County’s seaport. The boost in trade and revenue will have a lasting impact on the region, enabling SeaPort Manatee to further invest in infrastructure to meet the demands of an ever-growing market.

“Juice products have long been a major import at SeaPort Manatee,” said Carlos Buqueras, SeaPort Manatee’s executive director, “and this historic agreement helps ensure this flow continues for many years to come.”

And cargo has again been flowing well for SeaPort Manatee. Fiscal Year 2023 was a lot like FY 2022. “While numerous U.S. ports are experiencing significant downturns of as much as 20 percent or more in tonnage compared with fiscal 2022 volumes, SeaPort Manatee is staying the course, maintaining its role as a preferred gateway for a broad range of key commodities,” said Carlos Buqueras, SeaPort Manatee’s executive director. For the 12-month period ended Sept. 30, SeaPort Manatee reported total cargo tonnage of 11,017,670 tons, making it the second-busiest fiscal year in the Manatee County port’s history.

Cargo diversity is the key for SeaPort Manatee. Imports of Aquila power catamaran yachts for Clearwater, Florida-based MarineMax Inc., the world’s largest recreational boat and yacht retailer, totaled 237,122 tons in FY 2023, up from 1,548 tons in FY2022, making yachts the commodity with the largest leap. The value of the fiscal 2023 yacht shipments totaled $73 million. Steel was also up hitting 71,488 tons, a 198% increase.

Other noncontainerized goods enjoying substantial advances at SeaPort Manatee in the past year include phosphate rock, fly ash and construction aggregate, while an 11% increase in moves of fruits and vegetables helped keep the port’s containerized cargo tonnage similar to that in the preceding record fiscal year at 1,341,149 tons. Measured in 20-foot-equivalent container units, SeaPort Manatee’s containerized cargo throughput of 167,385 TEUs remained nearly double the port’s fiscal 2020 TEU count. While SeaPort Manatee’s breakbulk cargo sector saw the largest increase in FY2023, up 26.7%, to 1,023,307 tons, while dry bulk activity rose 14.2%, to 2,558,515 tons.

Port Tampa Bay

In FY 2023, Port Tampa Bay continued its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic triggered slump with many segments of the port’s diverse cargo mix improving. Take the all-important cruise ship business, for example. In 2023 cruise ship calls were 249 compared to 184 and passengers a whopping 1,214,057 compared to 418,200 — 169% increase and the port is well on its way to breaking that number in FY 2024. But other sectors did modestly well as “bulk” and “general cargo” were collectively up 8%. In FY 2023 containerized throughput in FY 2023 was 217,110 TEUs compared to 178,637 TEUs in FY2022, while containerized net tons was up 30%. But of all the cargos handled, concentrate & citrus juice was the big winner. In FY 2023 concentrate and citrus juice tallied 980,624 tons compared to 153,657 in FY2022 — a 538% increase.

Still the really big news for Port Tampa Bay could well be the landmark lease agreement made in February with Tradepoint Atlantic. Tradepoint Atlantic, which operates a 3,300-acre global multimodal logistics hub and industrial center in the Port of Baltimore, was looking for an opportunity to expand outside its existing footprint and Tampa provided an ideal setting.

Port Tampa Bay’s Board of Commissioners approved a lease agreement with Tradepoint Tampa for 35 acres of land to build a new trans-load warehouse distribution facility. Under the terms of a 40-year lease agreement, Tradepoint Tampa will design, construct, and operate an approximately 500,000 square foot facility for the trans-loading of cargo between ocean containers, trucks, and rail cars. The new trans-load facility will be located on Hooker’s Point adjacent to the port’s container terminal, which itself is also being expanded with additional paved storage, cranes, and a new gate complex, as well as the port’s on-dock cold storage facility. Another important agreement was reached in May 2023 with Glovis Americas (see Top 100 North American Importers chart). Tampa Bay’s Board of Commissioners approved a 10-year lease with Glovis America, the logistics arm of South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Group, which will significantly expand the port’s auto handling capacity. The new agreement adds approximately 10.5 acres of vehicle storage area and 33,000 square feet of warehouse space for a vehicle-processing center on Hooker’s Point. This will provide a total of 30 acres of terminal space dedicated for new vehicle storage.

Port Tampa Bay President and CEO Paul Anderson said of the new lease agreement, “Port Tampa Bay continues to diversify its lines of business and we celebrate the expansion of our Ro/Ro capabilities in partnership with Glovis. Glovis is a proven leader in automobile logistics and this new agreement demonstrates their confidence that the Tampa market will continue to grow for years to come.”

Paul Anderson, Port Tampa Bay President & CEO

With the deal, Glovis is expected to bring at least 70,000 vehicles each year through Port Tampa Bay. The 10-year lease could be extended as there is the possibility of two additional extensions of five years each.

The port was also busy notching lease agreements for Port Redwing — the breakbulk and bulk cargo port development — the Port Commissioners approved three separate agreements to expand operations for the area. The agreements were approved with AJAX Paving Industries of Florida, LLC, Redwing Terminals, LLC, and Pangaea Florida, LLC to expand the handling of a variety of aggregates, including limestone, granite, and crushed concrete, cementitious products, and several others. AJAX Paving Industries of Florida is a privately owned company with more than forty-two years of experience in paving and road construction building Florida’s highways and infrastructure. AJAX currently operates eight asphalt plants in Florida and six asphalt plants in Michigan. The port’s board approved a lease agreement with AJAX for ten acres of land at Port Redwing, with conveyor access to Berth 302 for the importation of aggregate. Redwing Terminals is the aggregates import division of Blue Water Industries, LLC, a construction aggregates producer. Formed in 2018, Blue Water employs more than 300 people throughout the Southeast United States, including South Carolina, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Virginia. Blue Water currently owns and operates 20 rock quarries and five sand mines. Products include crushed limestone, rip rap, gravel, concrete and asphalt sand, gabbro, and granite. The board approved a lease with Redwing Terminals for approximately 14.0 acres of land, with conveyor access to Berth 302 for the importation of aggregate. And Port Tampa and Pangaea Florida, ( a wholly owned business unit of Pangaea Logistics Solutions’ port terminal and stevedoring division) inked a lease agreement for approximately 2.0 acres of land with conveyor access to Berth 302 for the importation of aggregate and other commodities. Pangaea Logistics Solutions, Ltd is a publicly traded company (NASD: PANL) headquartered in Newport, RI, and established in 1996. Pangaea operates a fleet of 60-70 dry bulk vessels in the Supramax, Ultramax, Panamax, and Post-Panamax classes, 25 of which are owned.