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Tampa Port rebrands, but steel still core

Feb 03, 2014 | 06:26 PM | Jo Isenberg-O’Loughlin

Tags  steel conference, Port of Tampa, Wade Elliott, Tampa Steel Conference, logistics, transportation, Jo Isenberg-O'Loughlin

NEW YORK — The Port of Tampa has a new name, a new logo and a newly launched rebranding effort—one keyed to capitalize on the "sweet spot" location of what now goes by the name Port Tampa Bay, only a short trip by ship to Mexico and the closest U.S. port to the Panama Canal.

The retooling was initiated only weeks before the 5th Annual Tampa Steel Conference Feb. 6 and 7 at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel. The event, hosted by the Tampa Port Authority, traditionally draws some 200 to 250-plus attendees from across the steel supply chain, including logistics, ports and transportation services, to network and tune into presentations addressing the latest issues, trends and significant developments in the global steel market and trade arena.

"It started off as a pretty modest affair with a local reception 25 years ago, and now it has become one of the most attended events on the steel industry calendar," Wade Elliott, the port’s vice president of marketing and business development, told AMM in an interview. "We are happy to create a venue to host a discussion about where the industry is going, where the opportunities and challenges are and what needs to be improved upon.

"It is important to have that sharing of projections and trends," he noted. "But the networking part of it is probably even more important, to get the decision makers together and to look at opportunities to do business."

Elliott, who describes steel as a "core business" of Port Tampa Bay, noted that the facility’s steel volumes were up about 17 percent last year. "That was a very positive and an encouraging sign. ... And we do have a pretty good mix of products. A strong component of that is coils and pipe, but we also have rebar, beams, billet, and other commodities, like aluminum billet, moving through," he said.

"Then, of course, we are a pretty big scrap export terminal," Elliott added. "I think we did 476,000 (net) tons of scrap last year. The recycle business has been fairly steady over the years. I think we have been hovering around that 500,000-ton-per-year mark for probably 10 years or so."

Scrap shipped out of Tampa Bay Port is delivered to a variety of destinations, he said. "Some of it goes to Asia, some of it to Mexico and some to Turkey."

Elliott attributes the double-digit increase in the Port’s steel volumes last year to a rebound in the construction sector. "I think the recovery of the construction sector has certainly played a large part behind that increase," he said. "And we are seeing a similar trend in other materials like cement and aggregate. That all sort of augurs well.

"We are also seeing other types of product, such as pipe that is used not only in large construction and industrial projects but pipe that goes into the natural gas sector, moving," he pointed out.

Elliott not only considers steel a core business for Port Tampa Bay, but also said it is "an area where we see great growth opportunities. And we are making sure we have the capacity, in terms of the docks, the lay-down area, the transit shed warehouse space to continue to grow as the market around us grows.

"It has been a conscious strategy on the part of Port Tampa Bay to make sure we have a diverse portfolio," he said. "And the steel business continues to be a very important part of that. We do see some good growth opportunities in this trade. And we want to make sure we have the infrastructure here to support that market."

For more information on the Tampa Steel conference, see the port's website.

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