Editorial: Well-earned recognition for Port Tampa Bay

June 1, 2016

Tampa Bay Times editorial

Port Tampa Bay’s recognition as America’s port of the year shines a timely national spotlight on the entire region. This sends an excellent signal to the private sector as the port takes a bigger role in remaking the downtown Tampa waterfront and improving the local economy.

Lloyds’ List, a publication for the maritime industry, named the port as North America’s port operator of the year. The award, bestowed in New York City this month, honors excellence in the shipping business. The port was recognized for its high standards of efficiency, customer service and commitment to safety and the environment. This is the first time Port Tampa Bay has won the award.

The honor comes at a busy time, as the port positions itself to attract larger cargo containers and draw bigger ships once the expanded Panama Canal opens for business, expected at the end of June.

The port also announced last year it would remake 45 acres along the downtown waterfront into a mix of high-rise residential towers, a new marina and cruise ship terminals, parks and other public venues. The project will fill a huge gap on the east side of downtown’s waterfront, bringing energy and business to the city center. It also will complement the redevelopment that Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik plans for 40 acres he controls to the west. All told, the build-out in the area could reach nearly $4 billion and connect the growing Channel District to Ybor City.

Port chief executive Paul Anderson and port authority chairman Steve Swindal deserve credit for keeping the operation humming at top speed while advancing a larger vision for the port that will add to the region’s economy and quality of life.

This professional recognition by the industry reflects well on the port’s staff, and it helps explain the support the port enjoys at both the state and local levels. It should send an encouraging sign to the port’s would-be partners in the private sector as the agency prepares to build on its footprint downtown. The port’s expansion plans are ambitious, and redeveloping the waterfront will take time and careful planning. But the public can have faith at the outset in the leaders of the port that has been ranked North America’s best.