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Published: April 18th 2013
Port Of Tampa AerialPort of Tampa Florida Harbor Excursion - February 27, 2013
Tour boat route - departing from Aquarium and going around the various port facilities ending back a the Aquarium
You have seen most all of the things that make up an ocean port. A harbor or port is often the back ground for shoot-em up TV adventure programs. Unfortunately we seldom get to see the local harbor in its daily, more mundane role as a port of entry for goods and passengers from around the world, a place where the local products are shipped to waiting hands across the sea, where many of your friends and neighbors earn their living. I was fortunate enough to be able to take a harbor excursion and see for myself what the harbor looks like when it is not acting in a movie.
The opportunity came to me unexpectedly. My wife’s Uncle Gil called and asked me if I wanted to go. In the condominium complex where Uncle Gil and Aunt Effie live the condo staff has members whose job it is to find interesting things for the resident to do. Gil and Effie had signed up for a tour of The Port of Tampa to be followed by a lunch at a locally famous restaurant, The Colonnade. Unfortunately, Effie
developed a knee problem and was unable to go. That left her reserved seat available which Gil offered to me. I readily accepted.
The day dawned clear and slightly cool, the wind was calm. An early morning breakfast and then it was off to meet up with Uncle Gil at his condo. The other members of the excursion were already assembling in the lobby. Soon the tour guide, Ron Rotondo, was calling the roll. With everyone accounted for, it was time to load onto the bus. The condo’s bus is fairly new, well maintained and I didn’t notice any defects in need of attention. The bus seats are even equipped with seat belts.
It was about a forty-five minute drive. First to the I-275, across the bay on the Howard Franklin Bridge, then off into local downtown traffic. Lou, the bus driver, was a master of letting the bus flow with the traffic with seldom a lurch or strain at the seat belt felt. We then pulled up in front of the Florida Aquarium. It was before opening hours so an aquarium employee escorted us through the building to the wharf on the back
Inside the bus
It was a comfortable and safe ride from Seminole Fl to downtown Tampa FL
side of the aquarium. The tour boat was waiting for us. It is a harbor craft, square in design with a close lower deck for inclement weather and an open upper deck for hearty souls or good weather. Although it was cloudy and the early morning quite cool, it was mild weather in the port and most of us decided to take in the sights from the upper deck.
The one and one-half hour harbor tours are offered free-of-charge by the Tampa Port Authority. The tours depart from the Aquarium two days a week. Reservations are required, no walk-ups allowed. More information can be found at: http://www.examiner.com/article/tampa-port-authority-offers-free-boat-ride
or contact the Port Authority direct at (813) 905-5014.
The tour is narrated and it helps to understand the odd looking water craft, the shore facilities and what the port is all about. We learned that The Port of Tampa is the largest port in the area and provides ship repair and fabrication facilities as well as passenger and cargo handling facilities. Passenger cruise ships, bulk cargo ships, container ships and tankers all use the Port of Tampa. It can be a very busy place indeed. However,
In front of the Aquarium
Our drop-off point to catch the tour boat.
on our tour day it was between cruise ships, awaiting container ships and the coal had already been unloaded and the ship departed. We got to see the port facilities up close but for the most part they were idle, between work stints, waiting for the next ship arrival. Although we didn’t get to see the hustle and bustle of a busy port, that did allow us an unobstructed view of the shore side facilities.
In gross numbers, we learned that The Port of Tampa handles about 34 million tons of cargo each year. That amounts to about forty percent of all the cargo moving in and out of the State of Florida. That is amazing when you think about it. This one port, quiet during our visit, handles almost as much cargo as all the other seaports, railroads and trucks combined. And as quiet as it was, that would indicate nowhere its total capacity. I had a newfound respect for the Port of Tampa.
There were more than two hundred cruise ship arrival and departures. Bulk cargo includes such items as cement, citrus, coal, construction aggregates and phosphates. Liquid cargos include ammonia, citrus, petroleum, sulfur and sulfuric acid. In addition to the containerized cargo, the port also handles large amounts of steel products and scrap metal for export. Your new car may even have entered the United States through the Port of Tampa. The economic impact of the port is given as eight million dollars and approximately one million jobs.
From the charts it looks like most of the Port of Tampa is located in a peninsula labeled Hooker’s Poiint. Ancillary port facilities, such as the Aquarium and the cruise liner terminals, are located on the opposite side of the channels that define the Hooker’s Point Peninsula. Some additional facilities are located to the east on Pendola Point and Port Sutton. Our departure and return point, in pier-side of the Tampa Aquarium and adjacent to the Port Authority Offices and cruise terminals, was on the opposite side of the Ybor Channel that defines the western side of Hooker’s Point.
As an aside, I would like to point out that the SS American Victory is moored presently adjacent to the Tampa Aquarium. The American Victory is one of only four surviving Victory Ships out of 534 manufactured during the Second World War. The Victory Ship was an improvement over the Liberty Ships that were built in the beginning war years. It is a nearly complete representation of what these ships looked like when they plied the sea bravely facing German U-boats in the Atlantic and Japanese Kamikaze aircraft in the Pacific Ocean. Visiting the American Victory is another tour and one that I will take in the near future. More information about SS American Victory Tours can be found at: http://www.americanvictory.org/
. General admission is $10 with discounts for seniors, veterans and students. I think it will be another worthwhile tour. Oh, and by the way, each year they have a short sail out into the near waters of The Gulf of Mexico. Make your reservations early. They fill up fast.
The screen capture shot from Google Earth with the yellow course overlay shows the approximate route we took on our tour. From our vantage point we were able to see most of the port facilities, and as I mentioned, with an unblocked view. If you have any interest at all about what goes on around you I think you will find the Port of Tampa tour enjoyable as well as educational. You will come away with answers to questions you didn’t even know you had. The price is certainly appealing and you have the opportunity to meet a lot of very nice people. Take the time to view the video. Screen captions identify what we saw along the way.
After the tour, we all loaded on the bus and were taken to a locally famous restaurant, The Colonnade. Uncle Gil and I shared our table with the tour director,
Ron Rotondo and the bus driver, Lou. They were affable dinner companions and we enjoyed their company during the meal. We found both to be dedicated to their jobs and taking satisfaction in interactions with the guests. More about the meal itself can be found at our food blog site, http://thatfoodguy.blogspot.com/ .
It was an enjoyable day doing something unusual and pleasantly learning a lot, answering questions I had often wondered about.
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