TAMPA — The Port of Tampa has changed its name to Port Tampa Bay as part of a new branding initiative to emphasize its regional service area with a focus on enhancing the port’s image among shipping interests worldwide.
“Our port has to change a long-standing perception that we are just a bulk port with some cruise business,” said Paul Anderson, the port’s president and chief executive officer who marked the first year of his tenure in Tampa by delivering the annual State of the Port address Wednesday.
“We are going after ... the message that our port is also in the container business, in the automobile (shipping) business, in the break bulk (packaged-noncontainerized business ...,” Anderson told more than 300 business people and elected officials at a luncheon at Cruise Terminal 2.
Expanding its marketing and outreach is one of six “strategic initiatives” Port Tampa Bay will pursue in 2014, along with diversifying and growing business lines, expanding maritime land, investing in infrastructure, continuing a solid financial performance and enhancing partnerships.
“We are making a concerted effort to expand what we have been doing,” port Chairman Steve Swindal said.
But marketing is a prime focus for Anderson, who has dispatched port staff as far as Asia to push for additional business.
Among 2013’s accomplishments was Royal Caribbean’s inaugural cruise from Tampa of the Brilliance of the Seas in November and its plans to add a second cruise ship this fall, raising to six cruise ships that home port at Port Tampa Bay.
The port added a second major ocean carrier, Mediterranean Shipping Co., which began container cargo service last January.
In August, the port signed an agreement with the country’s largest auto processing company, Jacksonville-based Amports, to handle vehicles manufactured in Mexico. Mexico is expected to expand vehicle production from 2.9 million today to more than 4 million by 2017.
Port Tampa Bay’s location a short trip from Mexico and as the closest U.S. port to the Panama Canal has created a new business opportunity with the Amports agreement.
“In 2013, (the port) experienced a sense of renewal,” Anderson said. “We laid the groundwork for more achievements in 2014.”
The port’s cargo tonnage was flat in 2013, container shipments increased 6 percent and cruise passengers declined 12 percent, largely because Carnival Cruise lines redeployed a ship from Tampa for six months to bolster its European business.
But the port is expected to handle more than 1 million cruise passengers in 2014, the auto processing and shipping site is expected to go into operation later this year and growth is expected at the state’s first on-dock unit train facility, which began operation at the port in 2012 and handled more than 3.9 million barrels of ethanol last year.
In addition, CSX and Iowa Pacific are teaming with the port to deliver produce from Central and South America in refrigerated cars to the Chicago area in 56 hours, trimming time to market by as much as four days.
Anderson said he will emphasize an enhanced business advertising presence at trade shows.
The port will use a new URL, portTB.com, and Twitter name, @portTampaBay.
“As the song says, ’you ain’t seen nothing yet,’ ” Anderson said to launch the lively presentation.