You Paid For It: Are $22 million cranes being put to good use at Port Tampa Bay?

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Last summer, Port Tampa Bay installed two giant cranes imported from China that cost around $22 million, half paid for by the state, a quarter by the port and another quarter by a private port operator. In other words, taxpayers footed the bill for around $16.5 million.

It was ballyhooed as one of 2016’s biggest accomplishments for a port that is focused on growing business in the worldwide container shipping market, which now accounts for only two percent of the port’s activity.

“We build infrastructure that’s built for generations and the cranes are part of that,” said Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson at the annual State of the Port luncheon last month.

After seven months of operation, port managers still can’t tell 8 On Your Side whether the cranes are earning their keep – or your investment.

“That’s the information we’re trying to gather for you,” said the port’s top legal officer, Principal Counsel Charles Klug.

The trouble is, 8 On Your Side asked for that information more than two weeks ago and top managers still don’t have the answers. They said the cranes have moved about 40,00 shipping containers since their installation in July, but can’t say how many ships were involved, or whether the Port’s other cranes could have handled that work. In theory, the huge cranes could have moved 40,000 containers in just five days worth of work over the past seven months, involving as few as five ships.

Anderson said last month it might be years before the 3000 foot tall gantrys generate enough new business from larger cargo vessels known as “post-Panamax” ships to justify the investment. Anderson insisted their value can’t be measured in a matter of six or seven months.

“The true test will be three, to four, to five years from now as we continue to grow and market this,” Anderson said.

Maybe so, but we’d still like to see the numbers. Port managers blame a manpower shortage for the delay and promise to deliver answers to our questions soon.

RELATED: You Paid For It: $60,000 party thrown by Port Tampa Bay

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