Port Tampa Bay on track to serve Tampa producers

Port Tampa Bay is already a very big deal.

Since its early days of transporting phosphate and cigars, it has steadily grown into Florida’s largest port. It supports nearly 80,000 jobs and generates almost $15 billion in annual economic impact. It’s a top 10 U.S. cruise port, and it handles, well, a boatload of cargo of all types.

Now it’s about to become a much bigger deal.

Last month Port Tampa Bay unveiled a $1.7 billion redevelopment plan involving 45 acres of waterfront property, twin towers, residential, office and entertainment projects, plus parks and medical school facilities. In addition to this massive redevelopment of Tampa’s downtown Channelside district, the port has an aggressive plan for expansion of its cargo facilities, which can be broken down into four phases. They are:

  • Port Tampa Bay will be building a 130,000 square foot cold storage facility.

    130,000-square-foot temperature-controlled facility

  • An intermodal rail project (CSX Express Rail) designed to serve markets in the Midwest
  • An expanded food campus, built on property next to the container terminal and cold storage area, to be set aside for warehousing, distribution and food processing
  • Other container development projects

Growers and shippers of Florida specialty crops could benefit from these developments.

“The new cold storage and food campus will be focused on exports and imports of fruits and vegetables and other refrigerated products,” said Wade Elliott, vice president of marketing and business development for Port Tampa Bay. “It will be an important component as we expand direct shipping services to and from the port. This will give Florida fruit and vegetable producers better options to be better able to serve their markets overseas – or to receive product from overseas. And with the express rail, it also will enable those producers to have much more expedited and efficient access to markets in the U.S. Midwest that are served by truck,” Elliott said.

Plans for Port Tampa Bay include installing huge post Panamax cranes.

Elliott said the 130,000-square-foot cold storage and food campus facilities will include fumigation capabilities and a state-of-the-art racking system, which that could handle more than 400,000 pallets per year.

The port also is seeking to become certified by an industry-recognized quality program – the 360-Degree Quality Management Program, which ensures customer service and the highest quality of product from farm to end user.

The first step in the expansion is the installation of new post-Panamax container cranes.  The cold-storage warehouse facility is next on the list, with the railroad to follow.

“We’re investing heavily to make sure we’re going to be ready,” Elliott said. “The post-Panamax cranes are going to be delivered in February. The new cold storage facility is scheduled to be open in October 2016, and then beyond that, we expect to have the rail service in place in 2017. And we’ll also be working on building the different facilities related to the food campus, such as chilled and frozen storage space and food processing, which may include value-added processes such as packaging individually quick-frozen product.  That also is anticipated to be completed in the 2017-2018 time frame,” Elliott said.

Elliott said port officials see the perishables industry as a very important part of the strategic plan at Port Tampa Bay. “We’re investing to make sure we have the facilities in place to help Florida producers reach overseas markets and ensure their product can move fresher and more cost-effectively,” Elliott said.

Learn more about all the developments in the works for Port Tampa Bay here.

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