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The future of Tampa’s port: Growth, hurricanes, and rising seas

Paul Anderson says the 2020s will be a decade of growth for Port Tampa Bay.

He can see that growth from his fourth-floor office in Tampa’s Channelside district, which overlooks drydocks and cruise ship berths. “In the U.S., the cities grew up around the ports, because it was a safe harbor,” he said. “Learning to integrate the two as the city and the port grows, they have to complement each other.”

Anderson was hired as the port’s CEO in 2012. He previously led Jacksonville’s port and was a federal maritime commissioner in the George W. Bush administration.

Since arriving in Tampa, Anderson has looked for opportunities to expand the port’s reach. Those efforts paid off in 2019, when Port Tampa Bay broke records for cruise passengers and welcomed cargo service from China, Vietnam, and South Korea. In the coming year, new cruise lines will call, and the port will look to increase cargo traffic to Mexico and South America.

But this time of potential growth coincides with the effects of climate change: rising sea levels and more frequent and powerful hurricanes. In an interview with WUSF, Anderson said the port is ready for both.