Port Tampa Bay’s commercial shipping history dates back, in earnest, to the 1880s when cattle trade with Cuba helped to put Tampa on the map. It’s a history that awash with Florida’s trade and other ties to the Caribbean, including President Teddy Roosevelt’s launching point for the Roughriders during the Spanish American War. By contrast today, the port handles nearly every type of cargo imaginable – not just cattle! During World War II the port was called upon to assist with shipbuilding efforts for our nation’s military. As the war was ending, on June 11, 1945, the Florida Legislature established the Hillsborough County Port Authority as the governing body and port authority of the Port of Tampa to ensure the development and improvement of the harbor and shipping facilities. Shortly thereafter, the Port obtained its first tract of land, the former McCloskey Shipyards, from the federal government. On June 11, 2020, Port Tampa Bay celebrates its formal 75th anniversary having grown to the largest port in the State of Florida in land and tonnage.
Through the years, Port Tampa Bay has established itself as the largest port by size and tonnage in the state of Florida and remains one of the most diverse ports in the nation. Port Tampa Bay is an economic staple in our region, accounting for an economic impact of over $17 billion, providing 85,000 direct and indirect jobs, and handles more than 34 million tons of cargo annually. In celebration of the 75th anniversary, the port and its maritime community reflects on decades of service to the region.
“Port Tampa Bay could not have accomplished all of these milestones alone, and we are honored to work alongside our partners within the maritime community to serve the public,” explained Port President and CEO Paul Anderson. “The port has grown leaps and bounds in the past several decades, including some significant developments since I joined Port Tampa Bay in 2012. It has been an honor to help this port continue to grow and evolve, and along with our board of commissioners, we look forward to 75 more years of success!”
To watch a video recap of Port Tampa Bay’s growth throughout the past 75 years, click here.
Below are some of Port Tampa Bay’s most important moments:
- 1945 – On Nov. 16 the Port holds its first organizational meeting.
- 1948 – The Port entered into a lease-purchase agreement to acquire the former WWII naval shipbuilding facility knowns as the McCloskey Shipyard or Hooker’s Point shipyard.
- 1955 –The Port secures federal authorization for the deepening of the Tampa Harbor channels to a depth of 34 feet.
- 1957 – The Port obtains title to the southern end of Hookers Point through submerged lands exchanges with the City of Tampa and Seaboard for deposition of one and one half million yards of spoil from the Tampa Harbor dredging project.
- 1957 –The Port leases a portion of the former Hooker’s Point shipyard property to Petroleum Packers, and that lease continues to today with our partners at Amalie Oil.
- 1963 – The Florida Legislature enacts a special act to change the name of the Hillsborough County Port Authority was changed to the Tampa Port Authority to provide a “more descriptive and helpful” name to “promote the Port”.
- 1964 – The Port acquires 52 acres of the former Tampa Shipbuilding Company shipyard from the federal government and moves its offices into one of the buildings there.
- 1967 – The Port enters into an agreement with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad to transfer approximately 245 acres of submerged lands for the construction of a phosphate loading and shipping facility at Rockport to relocate and replace the phosphate and shipping facilities from Harbor Island, f/k/a Seddon Island, and remove the movement of unit trains of phosphate from downtown Tampa.
- 1970 – The Port secures federal authorization to deepen the main shipping channel to 43-foot.
- 1974 – The Port became the second port authority in the nation to hire an environmental director as part of the Port’s environmental restoration program.
- 1976 – The Port leased the submerged lands in the vicinity of Cockroach Bay to the State of Florida to establish the Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve.
- 1980 – U.S. Coast Guard vessel “Blackthorn” and tanker vessel “Capricorn” collide, resulting in the loss of 23 Coast Guard lives. Later in the year, Vessel “Summit Venture” collides with Sunshine Skyway Bridge in a sudden, violent thunderstorm and one of the two bridge collapses. Thirty-five motorists and bus passengers perish.
- 1981 – Bahama Cruise Line begins first regularly scheduled cruise service from the port.
- 1982 – The Port becomes a major cruise homeport, welcoming Holland America Line as its first steady cruise partner. Now, the port continues to serve Holland America, as well as, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, MSC, and Celebrity.
- 1989 – The Port hosts the first Tampa Steel Conference, a tradition that continues today.
- 1990 – The City of Tampa Mayor and one Hillsborough County Commissioner become part of the port’s Board of Commissioners. In 2005, the board is expanded to add two members with a background in the maritime industry, a model that continues today.
- 1995 – The Florida Aquarium opens on what was at the time, port property. This year the Florida Aquarium celebrates its 25th anniversary.
- 1999 – Port moves into its new headquarters building at 1101 Channelside Drive. The building is named for a longtime port commissioner, Joseph Garcia, and completes Berth 212 and 40-acres of backlands for container handling.
- 2001 – September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks lead to profound changes in how U.S. seaports, including Port Tampa Bay, must address comprehensive security protocols.
- 2001 – The port builds Berth 269 and its largest Cruise Terminal No. 3, which is 112,000 Square feet.
- 2003 – ZIM Line launches the port’s first global container service, connecting to its transshipment hub in Kingston, Jamaica.
- 2005 – Port TampaBay purchase three (3) used PACECO container gantry cranes from Port Elizabeth for Berth 212
- 2006 – Ports America becomes the Port’s container terminal operator
- 2012 – Port’s Gateway Rail Terminal opens through a partnership with Port Tampa Bay, CSX, Transflo, and Kinder Morgan.
- 2012 – Port Tampa Bay holds first Hurricane Exercise as well as its first Safety Summit (along with Tampa International Airport) to focus on resiliency and storm-readiness.
- 2012 – The Port’s Gateway Rail Terminal opens through a partnership with Port Tampa Bay, CSX, Transflo, and Kinder Morgan, providing the first on-dock unit train rail capability in Florida.
- 2013 – The Port’s new expanded and modernized petroleum terminal opens following a $55 million investment. Currently, half of the state’s petroleum and jet fuel comes through Port Tampa Bay.
- 2015 — The Port becomes the first port in the nation to be recognized as “Storm Ready” by the National Weather Service.
- 2016 – With investment assistance from the state of Florida, the port acquires its first two Post-Panamax Container Gantry Cranes.
- 2018 – The Port’s cruise passenger numbers surpass one million each year for the first time, a milestone repeated in 2019.
- 2019 – The Port creates the Maritime Sustainability Team (MAST), adding to a significantly positive impact on the environment. The port was one of the first port authorities in the nation with a dedicated environmental department.
- 2019 – The Port adds three new weekly container services calling direct from Asia as CMA CGM, COSCO, Maersk, APL, OOCL, Evergreen and Sealand join ZIM, MSC and Seacat Lines as the port’s major carriers.
To learn more about Port Tampa Bay, visit our webpage: www.porttb.com