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Port Tampa Bay Set to Expand with New Cruise Terminal

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new cruise terminal port tampa bay

Port Tampa Bay, eager to expand its cruise business even further, plans to construct a fourth downtown cruise terminal. Port commissioners approved a $500,000 contract with HDR Engineering Inc. to perform engineering and design work on the new terminal, which would be located north of Terminal 6 and directly south of Darryl Shaw’s planned multiuse development, Ybor Harbor. A man-made slip would be filled in to facilitate the project.

The proposal is the latest development in what some see as a conflict between the cruise business and downtown’s economic development, while others view it as a complementary relationship. Issues such as parking, waterfront access, and more are under consideration.

Mayor Jane Castor, who previously mentioned the possibility of expanding the Tampa Riverwalk to Ybor Harbor, seconded board member Patrick Allman’s motion to execute the design services contract for the terminal. The vote passed unanimously.

The entire project, if permitted and eventually approved, could amount to an approximately $80 million investment. Funding sources could include everything from grants to private co-investors. Cruise lines have already expressed interest, but port officials declined to identify specific companies and the details of the cost-share agreement.

“We’re very confident as a team that this is a building that will come,” President and CEO Paul Anderson said. “We know that we’re going to have tenants. We’re going to work concurrently while engineering this, so this is just one step after another.”

Port Tampa Bay also has long-term plans to demolish Terminal 6 and replace it with a new building after the fourth terminal is completed. Although it was recently refurbished, some cruise lines see Terminal 6 as outdated. During the port board meeting, Margaritaville at Sea Islander occupied Terminal 6, handling 2,650 passengers. It first sailed here on June 14 and will operate in Tampa year-round. Although the cruise line is more of a low-cost option, it signifies approval of Tampa’s cruise infrastructure, despite the limitations imposed by the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Six cruise lines now sail from Tampa and contribute to about 20% of the port’s revenue, according to financials presented to the board. For most of the year, no more than one cruise ship departs daily. However, during winter weekends, that number often increases to three.

“There’s a desire for additional ships for additional days that we actually can accommodate [right now],” Chief Operating Officer Brian Giuliani said. “But we’re going to have to turn away business.” Giuliani stated that the plans for a new terminal will align well with Shaw’s development.

“Our port will continue to work with Darryl Shaw on our respective plans for the future,” Anderson said in a statement. “We both have great interest in working together to develop the area and generate a highly positive economic and social impact on our community.”

Also on Tuesday, Port Tampa Bay commissioners agreed to award a $64.8 million contract to Russell Marine LLC for the construction of Berth 214. The project, expected to grow the port’s container business to accept post-Panamax vessels, was delayed as the port awaited the disbursement of a federal grant. The contractor will now proceed with dredging this fiscal year, with phase two scheduled to begin in fiscal 2025.

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