The Port of Tampa is now called Port Tampa Bay, part of a re-branding effort designed to emphasize the port’s regional reach beyond the city and attract more business from shippers and carriers.
Port President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Anderson splashed the news, along with a new logo and promotional video, to the community during the port's annual State-of-the-Port address Wednesday at the port's Cruise Terminal 2. It was Anderson's first year-in-review speech since taking the reins in Tampa about a year ago; Anderson replaced Richard Wainio, who retired, with a mandate to
expand into more profitable cargo businesses such as autos and
"There's a whole new customer-centric focus and energy to what we're doing here. We're making the investments and structural moves to provide more capacity and value for our customers — and now we're telling everyone about it. Our new logo and brand messages reflect regionalism and diversity in our lines of business and reflect who we are as a truly world-class port," he said, according to a summary of the event issued by the port authority.
The new name is part of a broader image campaign and connotes that the port serves a wider metropolitan area that includes the neighboring cities of St. Petersburg and Clearwater and the surrounding Hillsborough County, as well as Polk, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Citrus and Manatee counties. Tampa has a population of about 350,000 people, while the tri-city region has more than 2.8 million people. But port officials have stressed for years that Tampa is an ideal gateway for the entire central Florida market that includes Lakeland and Orlando.
Florida recently became the third largest U.S. state, with 20 million residents, but the population swells with close to 100 million visitors each year. There are 8.5 million people living within a 100-mile radius of Port Tampa Bay and another 55 million visitors along the Interstate 4 corridor every year that the port serves.
"We are truly a regional economic driver. We impact his region by over $15 billion" and 80,000 jobs, Anderson said the following day at the American Association of Port Authorities seventh annual workshop on "Shifting International Trade Routes" in Tampa.
Port Tampa Bay is following the lead of other companies that have changed their moniker to reflect the regional nature of their customer base, including the St. Petersburg Times
(now the Tampa Bay Times
). All three major professional sports teams in the area — the Tampa Bay Rays in baseball, Tampa Bay Lighting in hockey and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in football — promote this regional outlook.
Anderson said Port Tampa Bay wants to support other ports such as Port Citrus, a potential new bulk port to the north along a shallow inland canal with access to the Gulf of Mexico. Citrus County has just completed a feasibility study for a port facility and wants to attract dry bulk businesses such as timber and aggregate to set up along the canal and ship to Mexico by barge.
Cooperation with nearby Port Manatee, a fierce competitor for cargo, could prove more difficult. Late last year, Manatee's board preemptively voted
to oppose any potential merger with Tampa after several private meetings between Tampa and Manatee port officials, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal
. But Sandra Murman, a Hillsborough County commissioner who sits on the Tampa Port Authority board, and Carol Whitmore, who chairs the Port Manatee board, plan to meet in the coming weeks to explore the possibility of joint marketing or other cooperation, the newspaper reported. Whitmore told the Business Journal
after the vote that Tampa coveted the thousands of acres under Port Manatee's control.
Murman said any formal merger would take years of study and might never be politically feasible.
Port Tampa Bay is the largest port in Florida in terms of tonnage and real estate, with 5,000 acres of land. It is a major liquid and dry bulk port, but its business includes containers, break-bulk and cruise. Top commodities shipped through the port include phosphates, oil, chemicals, cement, fertilizers, steel and forest products. It is also the first port in Florida to offer ethanol distribution. Several months ago, the port also signed an agreement with AMPORTS to develop a roll-on/roll-off automobile terminal and hopes to soon increase throughput of perishable cargo by partnering with several companies on a dedicated unit train that can connect with a hub in Indiana in a little more than two days. Port officials like to say the port is the "closest full service port to the Panama Canal," a key trade route between Asia and the west coast of South America that is expected to grow in importance when an expansion for bigger ships is ready in late 2015 or 2016.
Port Miami is the closest U.S. port to the Panama Canal, but it is primarily a container port. Tampa is a small player in the container market, but is heavily promoting its proximity to the Orlando area and its vast consumer market to attract international shippers and carriers. Port officials say shippers can save hundreds of dollars in trucking fees rather than using other ports. More than 60 percent of Florida's import cargo comes through ports in other states, according to state Department of Transportation officials.
In fiscal year 2013, which ended Sept. 30, Port Tampa Bay's bulk cargo grew 1.2 million tons to 33.8 million tons, including more than 1 million tons of dry bulk growth to 12.9 million tons. General cargo dipped 148 million tons. The port received an additional 113 vessel calls for a total of 2,988 vessels handled versus the prior year.
Other highlights in the past year include:
- the start of container service by Mediterranean Shipping Co., the second major liner carrier to call the port;
- the opening of a new $5.5 million petroleum pier, which enables tankers to discharge to multiple customers from a single berth;
- celebrating the first full year of operation for the Tampa Gateway Rail Terminal, an on-dock unit train facility. It handled almost 3.9 million barrels of ethanol — or more than than 5,700 rail cars — according to port statistics;
- completion by the Florida DOT of an elevated connector to I-4 and the Selmon Expressway, with truck ramps to the port.
The name change doesn't does not affect the port's governing structure. The Tampa Port Authority still manages the port as an agency of Hillsborough County that derives a portion of its revenue from taxes on property owners.