The port director of the Tampa Port Authority said robust growth in Latin America presents potentially significant opportunities to ports at the intersection of major East-West and North-South trade lanes.
Tampa this week is hosting a conference co-sponsored by the American Association of Port Authorities and U.S. Maritime Administration on shifting international trade routes.
The higher growth rate in the economies of Latin American countries are a big opportunity for ports in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, said Paul Anderson, who became port director and chief executive officer of the Tampa Port Authority earlier this month, relocating from the Port of Jacksonville where he was also CEO.
Mediterranean Shipping Co. has recently begun calling the Port of Tampa, joining Zim Line in a joint service. Zim has been offering regular service to the port since 2003.
The two companies operate five 3,000-TEU ships in a “butterfly” rotation that includes calls at Zim's hub in Kingston, Jamaica, and MSC's Caucedo hub in the Dominican Republic, thereby giving shippers access to connecting services to a wide range of ports around the world.
The service rotation is Tampa, Mobile, New Orleans, Caucedo, Kingston, Veracruz, Altamira, Houston, Caucedo, Kingston, and Tampa.
Anderson said Zim's commitment to Tampa and focus on the market developed the container trade in Tampa, and the addition of MSC will bring access to other markets for shippers through transhipments.
He said while ports on the East Coast of Florida are more focused on East-West trades, including Asian cargo arriving on large ships via the Suez Canal, Tampa is more likely to focus on the North-South trades. (He noted the ability to connect via the Zim and MSC hubs may result in Asian cargo also moving through Tampa. For example, several large furniture companies have big distribution facilities near Tampa and port officials say they could potentially realize substantial inland freight cost savings by using the port of Tampa.)
Substantial growth in the Central and South America economies will boost the North-South trade and freight moves into the Caribbean, “and that will fit nicely into their (Zim and MSC) feeder services and we are going to aggressively go after that market,” Anderson said.
"I'm very bullish on the Panama Canal's impact, particularly on the transhipment side," he said.
Anderson highlighted steps the port has taken to better serve customers, including the Tampa Gateway Rail Terminal, a joint project with CSX to build a new on-dock rail terminal with unit train capability and a new roadway that will connect the port directly onto interstate highways without having to go on local roads.
While CSX is using the on-dock terminal today to run trains moving ethanol, Anderson said a goal of the port is to eventually attract enough containerized cargoes that CSX will run a container unit train from the on-dock terminal.
Also, Bruce Kuzma, a director of international sales and marketing at CSX, said the railroad hopes to begin a "Green Express" service for refrigerated commodities, such as meats, vegetables and fruits, moving in both boxcars and containers. The cargo would move between CSX's rail terminal at the Port of Tampa and Kingsbury, Ind., a Chicago suburb. Initially, the service will offer two weekly trains with one-way transit times of about 56 hours. - Chris Dupin