Correction: A previous version of this story referred to the new Cosco loop as a "transshipment" service.
Port Tampa Bay gaining its first direct Asian service advances Florida ports’ efforts to gain a larger share of the roughly 100,000 TEU in annual Asian trade that moves through out-of-state gateways flowing to central Florida.
Starting Jan. 28, Cosco Shipping will begin a weekly service to Tampa, adding to the port’s weekly service connecting to Asia via Kingston, Jamaica. Reversing the historical trend of cargo landing in other states could save shippers time and money.
Central Florida, which includes 2.5 million people in Orlando, has 179 distribution centers close to I-4, totalling nearly 70 million square feet. The consumer freight from the likes of Walmart, Ace Hardware, Haverty’s Furniture, Sherwin Williams, and beverages from Tropicana and Minute Maid contribute to an annual economic impact of $300 billion, according to the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
According to a 2015 report from the Florida Ports Council, more than 308,000 TEU landing in Florida were imported through non-state ports. Only about half of the imports from the state’s largest trade partner, southeast Asia, entered through Florida. In 2013, about 537,000 containers en route to Florida entered the United States through ports in Georgia, Texas, and Louisiana, the study found.
“The total potential import and export market for Florida origin/destined goods available as additional cargo to Florida ports is approximately 3.5 million TEUs,” according to the report. “Florida ports are capturing about one of every two available TEUs.”
Shippers importing containers into Savannah will be transloaded into a 53-foot trailer — dry van or refrigerated — then sent on over-the-road truckload into Florida.
Asian imports are an important feeder into a thriving region, which hosts more than 100 million tourists annually and has a local population of 10 million across 25 central Florida counties.
Asia accounts for nearly 47 percent of laden imports into Tampa, according to PIERS, a sister product of JOC.com. The Asian share has remained consistent during the last five years, but overall volume is rising. Five years ago, Port Tampa Bay handled 12,790 TEU from Asia between January and October; now the total is 20,793 TEU. On the East Coast, the Port of New York and New Jersey and Port of Savannah handle the majority of Asian imports, each handling more than 1 million laden TEU annually.
But the Cosco service will offer a way for Tampa to nibble at the Asian market share, especially now that electronic logging devices (ELDs) cause trucking companies to strictly adhere to hours-of-service regulations.
Although the 300-mile haul into the I-4 corridor can be completed in one day, it’s not as attractive as a short haul. Plus the rates could be more expensive because a lot of cargo moves into Florida but not much exits. Empty miles are not uncommon for a driver leaving Florida, so many truckers will price those loads accordingly. Drayage from Miami is about four hours, which could incur a layover charge.
“Most of our large BCOs [beneficial cargo owners] can reach their distribution center within an hour drive of the port or less. So now they can come in four, five, or even six turns per day versus one from another port in the state,” said Paul Anderson, CEO of Port Tampa, told JOC.com
Tampa Bay’s advantage
Drayage between Tampa and Orlando is exempt from ELDs because it is a short haul. Draymen usually are paid per load — rather than per mile — so the rate using Tampa could be significantly better than a truckload quote from Savannah.
“We have been big supporters of Port Tampa Bay’s efforts to attract new services because of our significant distribution center capacity right next door in Lakeland and throughout central Florida. The port’s proximity makes it easy for truckers who can make multiple round-trip deliveries per day,” said Ali Hosein, vice president of international freight and merchandising with Rooms to Go.
“This is outstanding news which will mean faster deliveries to our distribution centers and ultimately to our stores and customers, said Rick Meyer, vice president of supply chain for W.S. Badcock Furniture. “We already have a great relationship with Port Tampa Bay where they arrange for our drivers to be badged, allowing us to pick up our containers at the port using our own trucks, delivering them to our [distribution center] in Mulberry.”
The Cosco Pireaus will kick off the service on Jan. 28. The average vessel size on the string will be 4,500 TEU, which will also stop in Houston and Mobile, Alabama. Port Tampa can only handle vessels up to 9,500 TEU because of berth space, channel depth, and the number of cranes.
So although Tampa cannot compete with Savannah’s container terminal footprint and processing capability, it can offer cargo owners an attractive option to segment a portion of cargo into Tampa to lower costs and potentially save some time in the process.
Contact Ari Ashe at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ariashe_joc.