TAMPA, Fla.—In line with Port Tampa Bay’s mission to aggressively pursue economic growth that creates positive impacts on west and central Florida, including job creation and returns on its investments, the port has partnered with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to ensure continued success in the port’s robust cruise business for many years to come.
Port Tampa Bay, the largest and most diversified port in Florida, is also the eighth-largest cruise port in the U.S., with 5 home ported vessels and a throughput of 854,000 passengers in FY 2013. The port’s strong-performing cruise business contributes significantly to the regional economy and represents a sizeable portion of the $15 billion in annual economic impact and 80,000 jobs supported by port-related businesses and activities. Cruise activity represents roughly 25% of the port’s annual revenue base.
Port Tampa Bay acknowledges the unprecedented support by Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature in investing in seaport infrastructure the past four years. Much of that funding has been allocated through the port’s strategic partner, FDOT. But thankfully, the state’s commitment to its seaport system extends beyond just infrastructure investment, as the state is committed to proactive solutions to challenges facing our network of Florida ports. In this regard, Port Tampa Bay is pleased to acknowledge the state’s leadership in recognizing the need to identify long-term solutions associated with cruise ship restrictions tied to the height of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge—in the form of a preliminary study completed by FDOT, the Tampa Bay Cruise Pre-Feasibility Study. This study is a collaborative effort which presents a thorough and insightful picture of current cruise activity at Port Tampa Bay and provides guidance to ensure a positive outlook for cruise activity growth for the port.
The immediate outlook for Port Tampa Bay cruise passenger business is very positive, with cruise passenger totals approaching one million passengers in the next several years. Long term, however, the height of the bridge, coupled with the ever increasing vessel size of the world’s cruise fleet, will provide significant challenges for Port Tampa Bay’s cruise business. The air draft of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is not a constraining factor with regard to Port Tampa Bay’s continued growth in cargo business.
Port Tampa Bay and FDOT share a common vision for the need to explore long-term solutions that will position Port Tampa Bay to continue to flourish as a top ten U.S. cruise port. The study concludes that the current economic outlook for Port Tampa Bay cruise business is robust and confirms the need for an in-depth, solution-oriented examination of the longer term trends and challenges the state and the port must consider in order to remain competitive.
The study asserts that, without constraints, the market potential for the Tampa Bay region in the long term could be over 2.5 million passengers, resulting in an estimated annual economic impact of close to $1 billion and up to 5,000 cruise-related jobs as the industry continues to grow and the average ship size continues to increase. Moreover, much of this business will be lost to other states as the cruise lines will seek other ports along the U.S. Gulf Coast for their deployments. Making sure this does not happen is of critical importance to the port, which has responsibility and fiduciary duty to consider alternate solutions, plan strategically and make the best business decisions for the community. Conversely, if the port will be able to support the larger generations of cruise vessels with easily accessible terminal facilities, the port, region and state potentially will realize billions in revenues, an increased tax base and creation of additional jobs.
“Port Tampa Bay is an important embarkation port for Royal Caribbean, and we thank its administration for being a great partner,” said Christopher Allen, associate vice president of global deployment and itinerary planning for Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises. “We have been sailing seasonally from Port Tampa Bay for more than 12 consecutive years, and we are looking forward to expanding to two Royal Caribbean ships, Brilliance of the Seas and Vision of the Seas, which will sail regularly from Tampa in the winter seasons of 2014-15 and 2015-16,” Allen said.
“Cruising will continue to grow in popularity as leisure travelers look to get the most value and fun out of their travel dollars and cruise lines continue to expand their on-board activities and destinations,” said John Tomlin, chief operating officer for AAA – The Auto Club Group, one of the largest travel agencies in the Southeast. “The communities and citizens throughout the Southeastern United States have greatly benefitted from Port Tampa Bay, which provides a convenient point of embarkation and plenty of nearby pre- and post-cruise attractions,” Tomlin said.
“The cruise ship business generates a significant economic impact for the Tampa Bay region and the State of Florida. However, the cruise industry has been building ships which no longer can enter Tampa Bay due to the height limitations of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge,” said FDOT Assistant Secretary for Intermodal Systems Development (ISD) Rich Biter. “FDOT’s pre-feasibility study highlights options to be considered for the Tampa Bay region to determine how the area can both maintain its current cruise business while at the same time allow for significant growth from the new ‘mega’ cruise ship market, and to identify potential courses of action,” Biter said.
Paul Anderson, Port Tampa Bay’s President and CEO, said, “The future belongs to those who prepare for it. Port Tampa Bay has a responsibility to the state and the region to think ahead and to review trends 5, 10, 20 and even 50 years down the road. We do this in all lines of business, including the cruise business. Fortunately, we have a strategic partner in the Florida Department of Transportation that is also not satisfied with the status quo, but is committed to the pursuit of forward-thinking solutions to issues facing our state’s seaports, including issues such as the restrictions associated with the height of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Florida Department of State Secretary Prasad and his staff are to be commended for their very important effort,” Anderson said.
This initial cruise study is step one—the first of a phased approach to comprehensively understand the future of the cruise business in Tampa Bay. The findings of the pre-feasibility study provide the basis to warrant further examination of the economic impact and the solutions necessary to ensure Port Tampa Bay remains a viable cruise industry leader for years to come. The facts are compelling enough to warrant forward action, beginning with a phase II study, ongoing discussions, and concluding with a workable plan that has buy-in from an array of constituencies and publics.
For over 30 years the cruise industry has been deeply woven into the economic fabric of our port and our community. Port Tampa Bay is committed to pursuing, in collaboration with our public and private partners, and many constituencies and stakeholders, viable solutions to ensure that 30 years from now the cruise industry in our port will have continued to deliver, positive generational impacts to our community, our region, and our state.
To view the Tampa Bay Cruise Pre-Feasibility Study, please visit: Tampa Bay Cruise Pre-Feasibility Study.
About Port Tampa Bay
Port Tampa Bay is Florida’s largest port and the largest economic engine in west central Florida, supporting nearly 80,000 jobs and generating almost $15 billion in annual economic impact. In addition to being a top 10 U.S. cruise port, the port handles a wide array of bulk, break bulk, containers and roll-on/roll-off cargoes, and is a major shipbuilding and repair center. The port was recently voted “Simply the Best” for world-class customer service in a Logistics Management Magazine reader poll. For more information, visit www.portTB.com.