Port Tampa Bay and its consultants today unveiled the port’s master plan “Vision 2030,” which outlines the port’s development plans going forward.
Port Tampa Bay said in a prepared statement that it periodically reviews and updates its short- and long-range plans for growth and business development, in order to keep in step with the economy and forecasts that cover an array of factors that impact the port’s diverse business lines, which include cargo, cruise and real estate activities. The master plan provides a road map that underscores opportunities and challenges in building and maintaining a thriving, world-class seaport.
The plan outlines seven so-called anchors. These are to 1) expand and diversify the port’s business base through executing a supply chain sales strategy; 2) Fullfill Central Florida’s long-term energy requirements; 3) Optimize Tampa Bay’s vessel access to successfully pursue emerging trade opportunities generated by the Panama Canal expansion; 4) Expand and diversify the region’s industrial economy and cargo base; 5) Implement the Channelside Master Plan and optimize cruise capability; 6) Partner with city and country to maximize future growth and development of the region; and 7) Develop and implement a landside transportation access strategy.
For the cruise industry, according to the plan, Port Tampa Bay’s vision is to develop world-class passenger facilities and services optimizing the cruise experience and preserving significant cruise-related economic benefits for the community.
Thus, the port wants to maximize its attractiveness to the industry , while fully integrating its cruise facilities and services with the redevelopment of the Channel District. The plan calls for an investment of $148.5 million from 2017 through 2021, including redevelopment of terminals, road access and parking.
Cruise ship traffic is presently limited by the 180 foot air-draft restriction imposed by the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. In the current fleet of cruise ships, vessels with an air-draft of 180 feet generally carry between 2,000 and 2,500 passengers. But ships being commissioned or on order are significantly larger. Therefore, the port will concentrate on the niche market for less than 2,500-passenger ships in the longer term. At the same, the plan calls for evaluation of possible solutions to the bridge air draft constraints to accommodate larger cruise ships.
Today, the cruise traffic is approaching 900,000 passengers and is expected to peak at 1.3 million in 2020, and could drop thereafter as older and smaller cruise ships are replaced by new and larger vessels. However, removing the air constraints could bring up to 2.9 million passengers to the port by 2043, according to the plan.
Recently, the port also announced the results of an economic impact study, which showed the port’s annual economic contribution of $17.2 billion to the regional economy. Additionally, the port said it is responsible for about 85,000 direct and indirect jobs. It said it has traditionally been one of the largest economic engines in West and Central Florida, and indications are that this will continue well into the future.