TAMPA — Two mega cranes scheduled to be installed at Port Tampa Bay in a couple of years will allow the seaport to prepare for a future with larger, wider cargo ships.
The Tampa Port Authority board voted Tuesday to direct its staff to negotiate with Zhenhua Heavy Industry Inc. — the world’s largest manufacturer of gantry cranes — to purchase two of them at a cost of about $24 million.
More cargo coming in on larger container ships means more jobs for terminal operators, laborers, crane operators, truck drivers and logistic services, said port spokesman Andy Fobes.
Half of the money to pay for the cranes is coming from a state grant and half is coming in the form of a loan from the Florida Department of Transportation’s State Infrastructure Bank.
The three 42-year-old gantry cranes currently in operation at the port’s container berth can reach 110 feet across a ship’s deck, the width of 11 cargo containers. The new cranes will have a reach of 160 feet, which means they can reach across 19 containers on a ship’s deck. The decks on the “post Panamax” container ships (built after the recent expansion of the Panama Canal) will have room for just that many containers across their decks.
There are even larger ships being built, said Port President and Chief Operating Officer Paul Anderson. But those larger ships will be heading to Europe, not the United States.
The best part about this purchase, said Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman, who sits on the port board, is that the cranes “will bring a whole ton of jobs here and attract more companies to come here” to ship goods.
“The growth is there and we are building the footprint” for even more expansion, Fobes said. “We are prepping for the ultimate goal of about 1 million-container capacity moving in or out of the port.”
The number of containers coming through the port fluctuates annually, Fobes said. In 2006, the port had 23,167 containers come through. In 2013, 42,198 containers came through the port.