The secret is out about the once sleepy Florida Panhandle, and just as the Northwest Florida region has seen strong growth in the last decade, so has Port Panama City.
This vibrant, regional port provides modern port facilities and handling services for a diverse mix of containerized, breakbulk and bulk cargoes. The Port also supports a number of major manufacturers in the region with vital port services. Now under the leadership of Executive Director Alex King, Port Panama City is well poised for continued growth, thanks to the great work of recently retired port director Wayne Stubbs.
In early 2020, just as the COVID pandemic began to set in, Port Panama City welcomed its first vessel to call the East Terminal, opening doors for new import and export cargo opportunities. The terminal has effectively doubled the Port Authority’s cargo handling capabilities for breakbulk forest products cargoes.
“The development of the East Terminal has transformed the port,” Executive Director Alex King explained. “In the first year, the new East Terminal handled 95,000 tons of new cargo, including the first direct shipments to the Far East from Panama City in many years. We continue to see cargo growth through the new terminal, with cargo volumes up 50 percent year-over-year.”
The Panama City Port Authority continues to expand its container handling capabilities at the West Terminal to support its growing container trade with the Yucatan. The Port recently purchased and put in service a third mobile harbor container crane. A state of the art, 70,000-square-foot on-port container freight station will be completed by the end of the year.
To further accelerate regional competitiveness, Port Panama City recently broke ground on a 20,000-ton bulk storage dome to expand its wood pellet handling capabilities. This bulk facility expansion will help support planned growth in biomass exports from Port Panama City.
To accommodate expansion of existing industries and attract new industry and distribution to the region, the port has developed a modern Intermodal Distribution Center. The IDC is located 15 miles inland from the Port, adjacent to U.S. Highway 231. The distribution center offers customers direct rail service to and from the Port terminals, and connections to the CSX and Norfolk Southern railway systems. Shovel-ready industrial sites for new industries are available.
Achieving the Port’s master plan goals on schedule hasn’t been easy. The region was dealt a serious setback following Category 5 Hurricane Michael in 2018. But, as Executive Director King explained, Panama City has made great progress, thanks to a lot of hard work by everyone in Panama City, Bay County, and the Northwest Florida region.
In the coming weeks, Port Panama City will be on display as fellow Florida port director’s, staff, state leaders, and professionals all converge on Panama City as a part of the Florida Ports Council’s 2021 Annual Meeting. Mr. King considers this a real honor to be able to showcase how far the port and the community have come since Hurricane Michael.
“We’ve rolled up our sleeves to rebuild from Hurricane Michael. Our guests will see first-hand how well the community looks, and see the strategic investments by the Florida Department of Transportation in our infrastructure, including the new flyover project and port entrance that connects our Port to our state and nation’s highway systems. I’m excited for them to see the progress here in Panama City,” King said.