By Yvette C. Hammett
TAMPA — Like it or not, the United States is part of an ever-expanding global economy and the federal government needs to ramp up its infrastructure funding to more efficiently move freight in and out of the nation’s ports, maritime officials said Thursday.
The American Association of Port Authorities, meeting in Tampa this week, discussed ever-shifting international trade routes, the expansion of the Panama Canal, mega ships carrying cargo from Asia and Europe to North America and plans for a new Atlantic-to-Pacific canal in Nicaragua.
Leaders also discussed the need for a better system of connections between ports, rail and trucking to export and to move goods to consumers in a more timely fashion.
Priority No. 1 is port infrastructure that can handle cargo and the channels that allow ships to navigate in to those ports, said Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson. Another high priority is what the industry refers to as first mile/last mile — getting cargo to and from the ports.
“We’re doing very well, thanks to state investment,” in Florida, Anderson said, referring to the year-old Interstate-4 connector that gets truck traffic to and from Tampa’s port more efficiently and to the two new gantry cranes coming next year that have a greater reach to move containers off of larger, wider ships.