Serving a diverse range of interests – from handling containers to moving bulk commodities and project cargos to supporting the offshore energy sector – ports of the Gulf Coast of Florida are advancing equally varied undertakings to meet current and future needs.
Starting in West Central Florida, near the entrance to Tampa Bay and looking northward, then west along the Panhandle, here is the latest at ports of the Sunshine State’s Gulf Coast:
An expanded south gate complex, dedicated in December, is among recently completed infrastructure projects at Port Manatee, the closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the Panama Canal. The gate’s wider entry and exit lanes facilitate smooth truck movement of oversized project cargos, such as massive liquefied natural gas heat exchangers manufactured at the Air Products Port Manatee facility across U.S. 41 from the port.
Fuel operations at Port Manatee also are in expansion mode. TransMontaigne Partners L.P. is looking to bring an 80,000-barrel tank back online by midyear, to lift its total active capacity at the port to 1.5 million barrels, as the firm extends its light oil contract. The increased capacity should help RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. further grow its volumes through the port.
And Port Manatee has extended its agreement with longtime tenant Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. Inc. through August 2021, with a series of options that could keep that company’s pineapples and bananas coming into the port until at least 2036.
Port Tampa Bay
Excitement at Port Tampa Bay surrounds the newly adopted Vision 2030 master plan, delineating strategic investments estimated at $1.4 billion over the next 15 to 20 years.
Plans include $357 million of berth and upland developments, expanded refrigerated cargo facilities, additional gantry cranes and yard expansion at Hooker’s Point, where Ports America has agreed to continue container terminal operations through 2046. The container terminal got a pair of post-Panamax container cranes last year, affording ability to work containerships with capacity of as many as 9,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units, and a 134,000-square-foot cold storage warehouse is scheduled to open this summer.
In December, Port Tampa Bay solidified its commitment to continued development of its 270-acre Port Redwing/East Bay properties in southern Hillsborough County with approval of an amended lease agreement for a 5-acre site with Gulf Coast Bulk Equipment Inc., reassigned to partner Logistec Gulf Coast LLC, as well as award of a contract for $14.5 million construction of a second Port Redwing berth.
Port of Port St. Joe
Plans to re-establish significant cargo shipping activity at the Port of Port St. Joe, on the Gulf Coast at the center of the Florida Panhandle, continue to move slowly. The efforts have been under way since shortly after 1998 closure of the St. Joe Co. paper mill and box plant that had formed the cornerstone of the local economy.
While small amounts of oyster shells and aggregate materials have been shipped from a former port property obtained by Eastern Shipbuilding Group, the Port St. Joe Port Authority hopes for much greater activity, including on a site where Arizona Chemicals closed a plant in 2009 and for which a lease has been inked with woodchip firm International Wood Group.
Port and economic development leaders are continuing their quest for funding of dredging the port channel to as deep as 37 feet and for rehabilitation of a short-line rail link to a CSX Transportation main line.
Port Panama City
The Panama City Port Authority has completed construction of a 7-acre rail transfer facility within its Intermodal Distribution Center. The 20-car-capacity facility is designed to support transfer of liquid and dry bulk commodities between railcars and industrial containers. The Bay Line Railroad has entered into an agreement with Port Panama City to market the facility with an option to operate it as one of Genesee & Wyoming Inc.’s Choice Terminals locations.
The port also has finished a 100,000-square-foot expansion of its distribution warehouse in the Intermodal Distribution Center and is making it available to logistics companies active in port-related trade.
And design work has been completed for the first phase of the port’s East Terminal development, to include construction – slated to begin in April – of a 250,000-square-foot forest products warehouse supported by a 40-car-capacity rail yard and a 900-foot-long deepwater berth. The new terminal, on a 41-acre site, is seen having potential for doubling the throughput capabilities of the port.
With more than $18.5 million in ongoing and pending infrastructure projects, Florida’s westernmost port, city-owned Port Pensacola, is looking to maximize tenant operational capabilities on its 50-acre footprint. Although the downturn in the offshore oil and gas construction vessel support industry continues, the port has a $2 million crane installation project under way, poised to capture any uptick in that sector and allow existing tenant Offshore Inland Marine to increase its services by completing on-site fabrication of large items.
A $14 million rehabilitation of Berth 6 is nearing the end of its engineering stage, with an eye toward reopening the dock to full operational status by 2018, while the port continues to seek development of 10 acres of shovel-ready off-berth property.
A Pensacola Bay ferry service, in conjunction with the National Park Service, is planned to be operational in spring 2018 with two 150-passenger excursion ferries running between the port terminal and Fort Pickens on the Gulf Islands National Seashore.