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Old November 21st, 2007, 05:24 PM   #1
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Port of Tampa course argued

Port of Tampa course argued

Debate arrives before a development plan is made public.

By STEVE HUETTEL, Times Staff Writer
Published November 21, 2007

Tampa's maritime community will get its first look next week at a long-awaited blueprint of the port's development over the next 20 years.

But Port Director Richard Wainio and some maritime industry officials are already at odds over how to measure whether the port is heading in the right direction.

An industry group sent Tampa Port Authority board members statistics last month showing the volume of cargo moving across public and private docks declined 6.6 percent from 1990 to 2006, while other Florida ports had increases of 20 to 110 percent.

The number of cargo ships and barges visiting the port dropped nearly 11 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Port businesses want to work with the public agency to reverse the trend, Arthur Savage, president of the Port of Tampa Maritime Industries Association, told port board members Tuesday.

"The fact is traffic continues to go down,"Savage later told reporters. "In a growing area of Florida, that is not acceptable."

Wainio stepped into the conversation and disputed the claim. "The maritime industry does not live and die on cargo tonnage any more," he said. "It's the millions of containers, that's what you measure."

He also took issue with how Savage's group came up with its numbers, starting with a strong year for the port and ending with a weak one. Tampa's cargo volume has remained around 50-million tons since 1980.

Over that time, exports by the phosphate industry dropped by about half, to 16-million tons a year. Producers such as Mosaic switched from shipping rock phosphate to smaller quantities of finished fertilizer, said Wainio.

The port kept the same cargo volume because of increased imports of cement and crushed rock at shipping berths owned by the Port Authority. Bulk cargo businesses bring up big tonnage numbers but relatively small employment, said Wainio. A large terminal planned by Dominican Republic cement company Andino Cements will employ only 12 workers locally.

That's why ports increasingly focus on the containers business, which can create thousands of jobs and lower the costs for retailers like Wal-Mart, he said.

Consultants will present the final draft of the port authority's strategic business plan at a public workshop Nov. 29 at the agency's headquarters on Channelside Drive. A workshop on the new master plan for development on the port authority's 2,500 acres will follow Dec. 10.

Steve Huettel can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3384.
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Old November 21st, 2007, 05:29 PM   #2
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Disagreements Surface At Port Meeting

By TED JACKOVICS, The Tampa Tribune

Published: November 21, 2007

TAMPA - A long-simmering conflict over Port of Tampa priorities emerged into public view Tuesday as the port director and the head of a seaport tenants group disagreed on whether port business is declining here while increasing elsewhere.

The Port of Tampa Maritime Industries Association and The Propeller Club of the United States' Tampa group said at the monthly Port Authority meeting that they want to work with port officials to re-establish growth and create annual benchmarks to measure the seaport's performance.

Arthur Savage, president of the PTMIA, said the trend is that both tonnage and the number of vessels calling on the port have been in decline since 1990. Savage is president of a Tampa shipping company.

Port Director Richard Wainio fiercely defended the port's performance, citing gains in petroleum shipments and container cargo, among other indicators. Wainio, recruited from Port of Palm Beach as port director in 2005 after local tenants became dissatisfied with port management, said measures like tonnage and ship movements are not as meaningful as in the past.

In part, that's because ships have become larger, Wainio said. Also smaller but financially lucrative container cargo shipments are growing while heavy tonnage bulk shipments, like phosphate, have declined at Tampa, he said.

The tension at the Port of Tampa resembles conflicts at other U.S. ports such as Seattle as changing seaport industry economics creates new opportunities and priorities for land use and business operations. Beyond the posturing at Tampa's seaport are longstanding issues of who wins, who loses, who pays and who decides the content of the port's plans.

Those factors were not discussed as such on Tuesday, but might begin to be aired in public as early as Nov. 29, when the first public session on the port's new strategic and master plan is scheduled at 9:30 a.m. at port authority headquarters at 1101 Channelside Blvd. A second board workshop on the plans, also open to the public, is scheduled at the same location at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 10.

Both Parties Want Flexibility

Both plans, under development for nearly two years by a consulting team heading by the Baltimore firm of Moffatt & Nichol, could be submitted for preliminary approval by the December or January board meetings. The interested parties agree that the plans should be flexible enough to permit change, in particular to respond to changes in the economy and shipping markets.

But some of the tension exposed Tuesday stems from the tenants' lack of knowledge about what the plans - one setting goals for short-, mid- and long-term periods up to 20 years, and the other providing detailed analysis of needs and opportunities - might contain.

The initial release of the plans is not expected to outline how certain hot-button issues, such as how port land might be converted to non-maritime commercial uses.

"We have no idea what's in them, other than they are a year late and we've heard they are over budget," Savage said.

"It's a difference in cultures," he said, referring to the tenants' outlook versus port officials. "The important questions are: What is the port here for and who is it here to serve?"

A Question Of Jobs Versus Revenue

Savage and others have criticized port officials for what they perceive as a focus on creating port authority revenue, rather than community economic development, like creating jobs. Port officials have countered that ports nationwide must consider diverse uses of their land, including commercial, retail and residential development, to support the community's best economic interests.

What complicates matters in Tampa is that the port authority controls 2,500 acres of port land, while another 2,500 acres of port uses is controlled by private owners, like petroleum terminal operators.

"We can help their port environment, but we can't tell them how to run their business," Wainio said of tenants such as CSX Corp.

Wainio said after the meeting he was optimistic for the port, in particular with container cargo growth after the expansion of the Panama Canal is complete sometime after 2014. Shippers using bigger container ships will enable Gulf ports to better compete with ports in California, where the majority of Far East imports are unloaded and shipped throughout the United States by rail.

CSX's proposed rail terminal in Winter Haven would serve cross-country container cargo, rather than container cargo shipped to Tampa, Wainio said. But Tampa can become a big regional port serving Florida's burgeoning consumer area with trucks hauling container cargo from the port.

"I look here outside and I can see us adding bigger cranes, maybe we will have up to six or eight, and handling 700,000 containers a year by 2015 or so," Wainio said. That would be a huge leap from about 63,000 projected for 2008.

Reporter Ted Jackovics can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 259-7817.
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