Cosco deal sets Port Tampa Bay on new course

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Historically, Port Tampa Bay has been known for cargo - like phosphate and petroleum - but soon much more of the cargo coming through the port will be headed for your home.

Port Tampa Bay President and CEO Paul Anderson says a new agreement with Cosco Shipping Lines will change the way the port does business.

Cosco Shipping Lines is one of the largest container shipping companies in the world, moving cargo from four ports in China, across the Pacific Ocean, through the Panama Canal, and now to Port Tampa Bay.

The trip will take 31 days.

"Central Florida and the I-4 Corridor has really developed into the distribution center for the entire state," says Wade Elliott, vice president of marketing and business development for Port Tampa Bay. "E-commerce is a critical part of that, like Amazon and Walmart. It means you can do three or four round trips a day to deliver from the port to those fulfillment centers. What this does, it saves time and money."

Port officials say this is just the beginning. They expect the container business to quadruple at the port by 2030.

Anderson says instead of minerals and industrial goods, the port will soon welcome household goods, electronics, refrigerators, appliances, and furniture could become the new norm.

Port officials say the Cosco deal will increase the port's existing container business by 50 percent next year. The route will start with one ship a week, beginning late next month.

Officials say the millions spent to install huge, new cranes to unload containers is beginning to pay off.

"I think it is going to mean that business will continue to grow here. It's what we've been striving for, for the last five years," says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who sits on the Port Authority board.