TAMPA (FOX 13) - The Port of Tampa has gotten a huge delivery -- a pair of massive industrial cranes all the way from China. Their two-month journey came to an end Friday, but changes at the port are just beginning.
Port officials say the cranes are part of a $24-million investment that should bring more commerce and jobs to Tampa and central Florida.
"[Businesses] can bring more cargo directly, whereas in the past [cargo] may have gone to LA or Long Beach, gone on a train to North Florida and then trucked down here. Now they can come directly to here so transit is faster overall," said Doug Wray, vice president of national accounts for Ports America, the company that operates Port Tampa Bay.
The post-Panamax gantry cranes are 15 stories taller than the existing cranes and will be able to handle ships of up to 9,000, 20-foot equivalent unit (TEU), nearly twice the size of the largest ships the port's existing cranes can handle.
"Big ships that are now the norm versus the ones we currently handle and that's what makes this exciting," said Port Tampa Bay president and CEO Paul Anderson. "It allows us to go out and compete with ports that we couldn't compete with before."
It's all part of the port's plan to become the container gateway for the region. Tampa is now the only gulf-side city in the state with post-Panamax cranes. Ports in Houston, Mobile and New Orleans also use the massive cranes.
The new cranes should be operational by June, a timely arrival. The expansion of the Panama Canal is slated to be finished by June 26, and officials in Tampa say PTB will be ready for the influx of bigger ships with bigger payloads.