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Port Tampa Bay is pleased to introduce CEO Corner, from President and CEO Paul Anderson. CEO Corner is a monthly blog that takes a high-level look at issues that affect the maritime community, as well as Tampa Bay.

CEO Corner – Safety & Resiliency

Hello and welcome to CEO Corner, a monthly blog that takes a deep dive into issues that impact our maritime community. As we approach Hurricane season and continue to live through a global pandemic, I would like to shine a spotlight on the robust resiliency planning our port undertakes yearlong. As Florida’s largest and most cargo-diverse port, it is critically important that our port can resume operations as quickly as possible following an emergency or disaster. 

Every year since joining the Port Tampa Bay team, I have made it a priority to help the port and our community become more prepared for hurricane season. Port Tampa Bay’s annual Hurricane Exercise has grown steadily over these past ten years, and each time we have learned something new about our area, our partners, and certainly about our own level of preparedness. Hurricane season is no joke - the National Weather Service expects 19 named storms this year, which is a 32 percent increase over a typical hurricane season.

The Hurricane Exercise has consistently grown over my time here, starting with a handful of participants to hundreds of registered attendees each year. Port Tampa Bay plays an important role during a tropical storm, hurricane, or severe weather. The port continues operations during a storm, providing fuel to the state of Florida and beyond. In fact, Port Tampa Bay provides nearly half of the fuel supply for the state.

Each year, the Hurricane Preparedness Tabletop Exercise is held with the National Weather Service to refine and improve our response to a storm. The port invites several external partners including the United States Coast Guard; Customs and Border Protection; Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office; City of Tampa & Hillsborough County Offices of Emergency Management; CSX Railroad; Hillsborough County & Tampa Fire Rescue; various tug companies; and port tenants, among others. The meeting is open to the public and designed to help several emergency response agencies talk through a response to a severe storm.

Following the exercise, Port Tampa Bay leaders solidify the planning and execution of all scenarios, along with other agencies and local leaders. Our port will continue to work with outside agencies to keep operations moving productively. At the same time, the port continues to minimize risks to keep our communities running and our citizens safe.

Given our port’s strategic significance in the petroleum supply chain throughout Central Florida, the focus on resuming operations post-storm is incredibly critical. Port Tampa Bay is keenly aware of the dense network of businesses, public entities, and residents that rely on us for necessities like fuel.

In addition to our Hurricane Exercise, the port collaborates with Tampa International Airport to host a Safety Summit. This year’s Summit, which is in its seventh year, will include a vast range of local, state, and federal representatives. In addition to our government professionals, we have gathered a variety of industry experts to engage you with presentations and panel discussions relating to safety, security and cybersecurity, and operational readiness, in an open forum setting.

This year our Keynote address will be delivered by Major General James S. “Hammer” Hartsell, USMC, Retired. General Hartsell distinguished and highly decorated military career includes over 37 years of honorable service to our country. General Hartsell continues to serve as the Executive Director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. This year’s conference will be held at the airport on Wednesday, June 1, 2022. 

Our safety and resiliency efforts do not begin and end during hurricane season. We recently broke ground on a heavy-weather building that will become our offsite storage facility for key assets in time of threatening weather events and other potential threats man-made or natural. The new building is a hardened facility consisting of a 12,000 square foot building designed for 189 MPH wind loads. The site is above the 500-year storm elevation. Funding for this site is partially through a FEMA security grant and is being constructed with the purpose of protecting valuable port assets, such as the command vehicle, trucks, security equipment and a survey boat, which will be used immediately following an event as part of the storm response.

Part of the selection criteria of the site was ready access to the port in a post-storm scenario. The site is off Interstate 4 and is also accessible via other major highways. The building is expected to be operational in early 2023. As part of a separate grant award from the State of Florida, we will be procuring a generator capable of running on multiple fuels.

We also obtained a Florida Department of Transportation grant to do an electrical resiliency project in partnership with TECO, which expect to kick off this summer. It will include improvements to the existing substation at Hooker’s Point and will include undergrounding of aboveground electrical power service to current terminal operations. We have partnered with TECO for years to upgrade and harden our electric infrastructure.

Last year, Port Tampa Bay was the first port to be granted funding through the FDEP’s Florida Resilient Coastlines Program for a Vulnerability Analysis. This study will assess our infrastructure and help us identify projects we can undertake to mitigate vulnerabilities and improve our resiliency.

Port Tampa Bay is honored to serve the state, our community, and most importantly, you – our neighbors. As we approach the severe weather season, we hope you stay safe and start your own preparations now! As a community, we are stronger together.

Safety & Resiliency