At first glance, Port Tampa Bay doesn’t appear to be much more than an elaborate rail yard jutting into Hillsborough Bay.
But “when you peel the onion away, so to speak, you find there’s technology at every level that’s critical to running a complex, working port,” says Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson.
Port Tampa Bay is Florida’s largest port by tonnage and land. It covers more than 5,000 acres and is a key gateway to Central Florida’s Interstate 4 Corridor. Keeping this port running smoothly and safely takes just about every facet of technology and engineering taught by Florida Polytechnic University.
Start with security. A port with a $15 billion economic impact — more than MacDill Air Force Base, University of South Florida and Tampa General Hospital combined — is a ripe target for terrorism. Consider also about 43 percent of Florida’s fuel passes through Tampa, keeping not just private vehicles running, but flights out of Orlando International Airport and Central Florida’s fire engines, ambulances and police cars. In other words, the ripple effect of a terrorist attack is far reaching.
“With that in mind, we turn to technology to make us safer and more prepared if something happens,” Anderson says.
An extensive audit of the port’s security cameras is underway. Creating a cohesive and efficient network of cameras takes the minds of experts in computer science and information technology.
Cyber security is also under constant development. For instance, the port recently acquired two new state-of-the-art cranes in response to the expansion of the Panama Canal. The expansion allows larger ships to pass through the canal and Port Tampa Bay can now accommodate some of those ships with these cranes. Cyber security experts were tapped to ensure the software that runs the cranes was secure.
Central Florida is one of the most populated areas of the Sunshine State, with about 8.5 million residents and 60 million annual visitors. Providing enough food, clothing and material to support them takes an intricate supply chain of warehouses, trucks, and railroads. For retailers to choose Port Tampa Bay as a gateway to this area the port must be efficient and, most importantly, fast. That’s where logistics steps in.
Florida Poly “is uniquely positioned to serve this huge consumer base. There are more than 220 distribution centers along the I4 corridor, waiting for someone to coordinate their traffic,” Anderson says.
There’s also room for engineering at Port Tampa Bay. Rising junior Logan Chambers is interning this summer at the port and he trails different engineers every day. He recently applied knowledge from a strengths and materials class to a wharf study. The objective was to find a material that could withstand the effects of the ocean as well as trucks and forklifts.
“They really want to make sure we’re learning and getting hands-on experience,” says Logan, who is joined at the port by two other Florida Poly interns.
Here’s the bottom line: technology and engineering are the lifeblood of Port Tampa Bay.
“Technology is becoming a bigger part of how we operate every day and I don’t see that reversing course,” Anderson says.