When behemoth container ships start sailing through the widened Panama Canal later this year, they will not come to Port Tampa Bay.
But with more cargo expected to come to the eastern United States by sea, the port is betting that it can stake a claim to some of the new cargo traffic flowing through the canal. Bigger ships might come to Tampa even if the biggest ones don't.
The port is spending $21.5 million on a pair of new cranes that will be able to unload bigger container ships, and it is investing millions more to make it easier for trucks and trains to exit the port and be on their way. The cranes will pass beneath the Sunshine Skyway bridge in March and be up and running by May, just before the canal expansion is scheduled to open.
"Our timing couldn't be better," Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson said Thursday.
The port estimates that the equivalent of 500,000 shipping containers make their way into Central Florida each year, mostly by truck and train, and it wants to handle more of them.
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