PORT MANATEE -- Manatee County Port Authority members are puzzled about a state "pre-feasibility study" on cruise ships in the Tampa Bay area.
A new cruise ship port facing the Gulf of Mexico in St. Pete, west of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, is part of the Florida Department of Transportation study's purview, said Carlos Buqueras, Port Manatee's executive director.
The Skyway is too low to handle the largest cruise ships, which carry 6,400 passengers with a crew of 2,500, Buqueras said after a meeting Thursday of the Manatee County Port Authority.
"Of course, Tampa Bay is limited by the height of the bridge, which does not put us in the sweet spot of where the growth is," said Buqueras.
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The study will look at the possibility of a new port on the west side of the bridge, which would remove the necessity of squeezing under it.
Port Manatee officials have never asked for such a study, they said.
The study was supposedly meant for the three Tampa Bay ports, including Port Manatee, St. Petersburg and Tampa, but Tampa is the only one that handles cruise ships.
"We have all the pieces to become a super port, and competition is great, that's what we're about, we're finding our niche," said authority member John Chappie.
"As long as we continue to run and operate this as a business, a quality business, with the quality partners we have at Port Manatee...this is what we're about," Chappie said.
Efforts to reach officials at the Port of Tampa were unsuccessful late Thursday.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.