Tampa Port Authority Considers New Port To Accommodate Cruise Ships
By: Katie Parsons
on Friday, May 25, 2012
Bringing in more commercial business to the Tampa Bay area is at the heart of a new debate being considered by the Tampa Port Authority. The organization is considering whether to build a new terminal located west of the Sunshine Skyway.
The new terminal would be designed to attract the newest line of cruise ship fleets that are too big to sail under the Skyway bridge.
In its early stages, the plans outlines the construction of new passenger terminals that would be south of the Pinellas coast, potentially off of Fort De Soto or close to the barrier island Egmont Key near the mouth of Tampa Bay.
It would mean that the newest cruise ships with as high as 5,000-passenger capacity could bypass the Skyway altogether. Passengers would potentially be loaded and unloaded via small boats that had the ability to enter the bay.
Before definite plans can be made, however, the Port Authority needs to determine if throwing its hat into the megaship industry is worth the cost and effot. Right now, Tampa trails far behind the other three Florida ports popular with cruise ships -- Port Canaveral, Port of Miami and Port Everglades.
Big-name cruise ships already have relationships with these areas and the infrastructure to maintain those relationships over time. Tampa would need more than just the proposed port in order to compete on an even level with the other locations.
There are other complications that could stand in the way too. Financing and permitting would impact the port and all of the communities near the region.
The effects on the environment also need to be considered, along with the impact the increase in traffic would have on maritime safety and aesthetics of the area. Industries like fishing and tourism will be impacted too and this is something that will need to be looked at as well.
Representatives from Manatee and Pinellas counties are already weighing in on the issue and a regional discussion will need to be had before any official plans can be approved.