When officials plan for the infrastructure of port communities, a clear focus on resilience will pay off many times over in terms of safety and economic stability. The information provided here shows port communities what to look for in resilient freight transportation infrastructure. (more)
Geospatial data and resources are included in three colored resilience categories of the tool. Within those categories, Checklists provide a starter list of resilience factors to consider, and links to Local Maps and Local Stories better illustrate the concepts. Port Profiles show data on several U.S. ports, and have links to geospatial resources.
For more information on the Port Tomorrow: Resilience Planning Tool, please contact the NOAA Coastal Services Center at firstname.lastname@example.org
To be resilient, port communities should have the infrastructure and resources needed to sustain safe, secure, and economically viable marine transportation operations.
Resilience assessment and planning resources in this section help officials answer the following questions:
Ports and port communities along the U.S. Southeast and Gulf coasts are projected to experience a significant increase in maritime commerce over the next 20 to 30 years. As a result, ports such as Tampa are expected to see more frequent calls from larger vessels. Here are some considerations that should be made when planning for future growth.
All vessels calling on the Port of Tampa must pass beneath the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which lies at the entrance to Tampa Bay. The bridge’s vertical clearance is 182.5 feet, which accommodates many of today’s largest vessels. However, several of the largest container vessels on the drawing board are projected to have a height of 200+ feet. The map shows the location of the Skyway Bridge and the main Tampa Bay navigation channels, which are colored according to depth.
Larger vessels will have wider beams and draw more water, requiring larger and deeper navigation channels and turning basins to ensure vessel access to port terminals. The largest container ship, Emma Maersk, has a width of 184 feet and a draft of more than 50 feet. The maximum depth of Tampa’s shipping channel is currently 45 feet. The map shows the main Tampa Bay shipping channels, which are colored according to depth.
Port facilities will need to grow to allow for the efficient movement of people and cargo from larger vessels. This will include an increase in the physical size of port terminals and the addition of material-handling equipment, such as cranes. The map shows the location of a few Port of Tampa terminals. Click on the points or the links below to learn more.
Reliability of services and durability of infrastructure are critical to resilience. The Tampa Port Authority provides a good example. The selection of this port’s capital investment projects is based on a strategic assessment of industry trends, local traffic and use data, and projected future freight requirements. As a result of this assessment, the port is planning and implementing projects that increase the performance and longevity of the existing infrastructure.
One of the most critical priorities for Tampa is to preserve and selectively enhance vessel access to multiple port terminals, making passageways accommodate the growing size of the ships coming to port. Key projects include strategically deepening channels and berths and widening a portion of the channel to accommodate two-way traffic. Other infrastructure investments that are important to help meet increasing freight demands include the phased expansion of the port’s container terminal and the reconstruction of the port’s liquid bulk petroleum terminal.
As port facilities and adjacent marine channels expand in response to larger vessels, so too must the land-side infrastructure. Freight corridors (road and rail) and associated activity centers (intermodal facilities and distribution centers) will need to be evaluated for their ability to handle increases in port-related freight movements.
The map shows the locations of Tampa’s port facilities (yellow points) and freight activity centers (green points).
Much of the freight entering and leaving our nation’s ports is transported via roads and highways. This especially holds true in Tampa, where truck freight represents over 50% of the total tonnage moved through the port. Increases in vessel size and frequency will result in an increase in highway volume, which will affect the region’s highway congestion.
The map shows congestion hotspots (orange points) and average daily truck volume from 2007 (red lines). The darker and thicker the line, the greater the truck volume.
Based on the Federal Highway Administration’s Freight Analysis Framework, truck volumes will increase significantly by 2040. If this growth is not addressed by adequate infrastructure planning, this will affect commerce transported through port communities.
This map shows projected average daily truck volume for 2040 in the Tampa area (red lines). Several “Low” volume areas from 2007 change to “Medium” volume in this map, and Interstate 75 north of Tampa changes from “Medium” volume in 2007 to “High” volume in 2040.
Adequate capacity and smooth connectivity throughout is a hallmark of a resilient freight transportation infrastructure. In Florida’s Tampa Bay region, the use of freight facilities by trucks and rail will likely intensify substantially over the next 20 to 30 years. Preserving local freight corridors and improving their connectivity to the port is critical to the region’s economy.
As a way of identifying freight mobility constraints and ensuring future marine transportation system capacity, the Florida Department of Transportation developed the Tampa Bay Regional Goods Movement Study, which identified key freight transportation corridors and major freight activity centers in the region. The study also identified “freight hot spots” as locations where the movement of goods is frequently impeded. By continuously reviewing and improving the local freight transportation network and its connections to the Port of Tampa, adequate capacity is maintained.
Freight connectivity to the Port of Tampa is currently being significantly expanded by two major infrastructure improvement initiatives. The first is the Tampa Gateway Rail Project, which will provide Florida’s only on-dock rail facility at the port’s container terminal. The second is the Interstate 4 Crosstown Connector Project, which will seamlessly connect the Port of Tampa with Interstate 4 and the national interstate highway system.
Real-time tide and current data provided through the Tampa Bay Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS) promotes safe navigation. PORTS data, when combined with up-to-date nautical charts and precise positioning information, can provide the mariner with a clearer picture of the potential dangers that may threaten navigation safety.
The map shows NOAA PORTS (color points) in Tampa Bay on top of a NOAA nautical chart. Click on the PORTS points to see more information.
High-traffic areas for recreational boats (red) often coincide with charted navigation channels (black outline) used by commercial vessels. In addition, recreational boat congestion (black points) is often near these navigation channels. Coordinating safe vessel movement in these high-traffic areas is critical to ensuring navigation safety.
Having a forum for groups interested in safe and secure port operations is a strong resilience indicator. The Tampa Bay Harbor Safety and Security Committee encourages communication and collaborative action across the port community by meeting regularly to discuss navigational safety and port security topics. Participants include the three area ports, the U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, Tampa Bay pilots, local maritime businesses, environmental groups, and private boating interests.
One of the committee’s successful efforts is the Cooperative Vessel Traffic Service, a partnership between the U.S. Coast Guard and the Tampa Port Authority. This group is focused on coordinating vessel movements in Tampa Bay, which includes identifying bottlenecks, keeping marine construction activities safe from vessel traffic, and communicating necessary information to all stakeholders. Partnerships formed because of this effort led to improved weather support to mariners when the NOAA National Weather Service integrated low-visibility sensors into the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS) in Tampa Bay.
To be resilient, port communities should effectively balance economic, environmental, and societal benefits and costs associated with marine transportation operations.
Resilience assessment and planning resources in this section help officials answer the following questions:
Maintaining compatible and appropriate land uses and appropriate buffers around port facilities is critical to community livability and economic resilience. Much of the land surrounding the Port of Tampa is currently designated for industrial uses (dark grey), buffering port operations from community residents and providing opportunities for future port expansion.
Residential (yellow) and commercial areas (orange) are also located near the port complex. Efforts to avoid or minimize negative impacts on these neighbors are critical to long-term community support.
Port communities are eager to expand their port operations and improve freight accessibility, but they also desire to protect community livability. Because ports have limited direct influence on land uses outside port property, industrial or working waterfront overlay districts and other planning tools should be considered to address residential quality of life issues and port sustainability. For example, Florida’s Hillsborough County Comprehensive Plan incorporates the Tampa Port Authority Master Plan. The land around the port is protected for industrial and port-related uses, and future port expansion opportunities are prioritized within the community plan.
Another way to increase land use compatibility is in the redevelopment of “brownfield” properties, industrial areas with potential environmental contamination. In this process, communities can benefit from job growth and an increased tax base, while ports can benefit by gaining usable land or a compatible neighboring land use. In Florida, the Port of Tampa, the Tampa Bay National Estuary Program, and surrounding local communities partnered on an interagency “Portfields” pilot project, which focused on environmentally beneficial redevelopment of designated brownfields properties.
Dredging operations are necessary to ensure the safe and efficient passage of vessels into port facilities. These activities may have adverse impacts on water quality and surrounding habitats. However, there are beneficial uses of dredge material, such as habitat restoration, that can minimize the overall impact of dredging on the surrounding environment.
Dredge disposal areas (outlined in yellow) are the typical sites where dredge material is deposited. These areas are also evident in the bay’s bathymetry (shades of blue).
In addition to dredge disposal areas in the water, dredge spoil islands (outlined in orange) are also repositories of dredge material.
Restoration within Cockroach Bay (outlined in green) represents an alternative and beneficial use of dredge material. Material from port navigation channels contributed significantly to the restoration (500,000 yards), saved money for the restoration project, and prolonged the life of the spoil sites.
Assessments of marine transportation system resilience should take into account efforts to reduce negative water quality and habitat impacts from freight transportation. Healthy habitats contribute to the ability of natural resources to recover quickly from disruptive events and to provide valuable ecosystem services to the community.
The Tampa Port Authority, Hillsborough County, and the Southwest Florida Water Management District completed an environmental restoration project at Cockroach Bay, an area that faced habitat degradation, invasive species, and worsening water quality. Since 1991, 500 acres of wetland and upland habitat have been restored, treatment of agricultural runoff has been upgraded, and water quality has improved.
Beneficial use of dredge spoil from port navigation channels contributed significantly to the restoration. Using dredge material (500,000 yards) for restoration purposes saved money for the restoration project and prolonged the life of the spoil sites.
The maritime workforce is facing decreasing numbers of highly skilled, motivated employees. Marine transportation system resilience depends on a robust, well-educated local industry. Making that happen requires a community investment.
The Propeller Club – Port of Tampa “supports the maritime industry, promotes maritime education and provides opportunities to foster goodwill and cooperative relationships among the individuals, businesses and government agencies who make up Florida’s largest seaport community.” This club works with the Hillsborough County school district, community college, and adult technical centers in the area to promote training and employment in maritime industries. One recent effort was the development of a new maritime curriculum program at Tampa’s Blake High School.
To be resilient, port communities should be able to keep marine transportation moving, businesses open, and people working despite impacts from hazardous events.
Resilience assessment and planning resources in this section help officials answer the following questions:
Projected increases in coastal population will continue to put more people at risk from coastal storms. Much of this new population has never experienced a major storm, such as a hurricane.
The map shows current (2010) population (darker color = more people).
The chart below shows that since 1970, the Tampa Bay population (Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Manatee Counties) increased by 122%, yet this area hasn’t experienced a direct strike from a hurricane in the last 40+ years.
By 2035, the population in the Tampa Bay area is expected to increase roughly 30%, which puts more people at risk from the effects of a coastal storm. Explore the map to see where this increase in population is expected to occur (darker color = larger increase).
Eliminating or avoiding all risks is not feasible or practical. The most commonly accepted risk definition is Risk = Probability of Event x Consequences. Having high-quality information about the probability of hazard occurrences and the potential effects is essential for smart risk-based decision-making.
The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council completed a comprehensive disaster resilience study that analyzes the economic impacts and effects of a natural disaster across the Tampa Bay area, including an analysis of the potential economic consequences of a major hurricane strike. Such impact assessment studies are critical because factors commonly missed in historical studies are included. For example, significant population increases have occurred in the Tampa area since the last time a major storm hit. This means current and future consequences are significantly higher, raising the actual community risk substantially.
Since the 1970s, the population of Tampa Bay has more than doubled, yet the area hasn’t experienced a hurricane since the late 1960s.
Ports and surrounding communities that are aware of their vulnerabilities tend to incur fewer losses from coastal hazards. As with many low-lying coastal areas, the Tampa Bay region is particularly vulnerable to coastal flooding.
The map shows the FEMA flood zone in blue.
Populations residing in a floodplain have a greater potential to be impacted from coastal inundation, such as storm surge. Impacts are likely to be even greater when additional risk factors (age, income, capabilities) are involved, since people at greatest flood risk may have difficulty evacuating or taking action to reduce potential damage.
The map shows number of people in Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Manatee Counties that live in the FEMA Floodplain (darker color = more people). In this tri-county area, 28% of the population lives in the floodplain.
Elderly populations can have unique vulnerabilities during a hazard event, especially those who have chronic illnesses or functional limitations. Evacuation, power outages, and access to medical care are of major concern to aging citizens.
The map shows number of people over age 65 that live in the FEMA Floodplain in Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Manatee Counties (darker color = more people). In this tri-county area, 31% of the population over 65 lives in the floodplain.
Where lower-income populations reside contributes significantly to their vulnerability to natural hazards, considering factors like inadequate housing construction and low-value land. In addition, poor residents may also not have the capacity to respond as quickly during and after disasters, considering factors like food shortages, lack of personal transportation, and difficulty accessing updated information.
The map shows number of people in poverty that live in the FEMA Floodplain in Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Manatee Counties (darker color = more people). In this tri-county area, 23% of the population in poverty lives in the floodplain.
Community infrastructure plays a central role in disaster response and recovery. Understanding which critical facilities are exposed, and the degree of that exposure, can help reduce or eliminate service interruptions and costly redevelopment. In Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Manatee Counties, 22% of critical facilities and 21% (3,241 miles) of road miles are in the FEMA floodplain.
The map shows critical facilities (symbolized points) and the flood zone. (blue).
Floodplains with more natural landscapes and less urban development typically have a lower exposure to flooding. Local planners can take steps to improve their resilience by monitoring land cover changes within the floodplain, allowing them to detect trends that indicate an increase in flood exposure. In Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Manatee Counties, 941 out of 6,070 acres (16%) of land developed from 2001 to 2006 were in the FEMA floodplain.
The map shows the areas converted to development (red) and the flood zone (blue).
Catastrophic Storm Scenario
Ports and surrounding communities that are aware of their vulnerabilities tend to incur fewer losses from coastal hazards. Having plans in place to address these vulnerabilities allows communities to rebound quickly, a true sign of disaster resilience.
The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, in cooperation with local governments, businesses, and communities, developed this type of hazard preparedness plan. Nine counties surrounding the Tampa metro area were involved, including Hillsborough County. The plan used a fictional category 5 “Hurricane Phoenix” as a worst-case scenario for Tampa, with water surging up to 9 feet at the port and an expected $250 billion in economic losses due to damaged and delayed cargo and infrastructure. This type of scenario planning allows ports and communities to identify and better prepare for the ripple effects of disasters.
In developing its Post-Disaster Redevelopment Plan, Hillsborough County identified priority redevelopment areas. These areas represent regional or community centers or critical installations essential for disaster recovery that will receive focused and prioritized attention during short-term recovery and long-term redevelopment.
The map shows these priority redevelopment areas (blue points). Port-related locations are labeled.
Priority redevelopment areas, or PRAs, are designated as vulnerable or sustainable according to a set of criteria, such as location within a floodplain and presence of structures that meet current Florida building code standards. Another criterion was the area’s location within a category 1-3 hurricane storm surge zone.
The map shows the hurricane category 1-3 evacuation zones (shades of blue). Purple PRAs are vulnerable, location-dependent areas in an evacuation zone, and green PRAs are sustainable locations outside of an evacuation zone.
Hillsborough County and the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace, and Plant City collaboratively developed a Hillsborough County Post-Disaster Redevelopment Plan to guide the decision-making process following a disaster. The Hillsborough County plan was developed in 2008 and 2009 through a collaborative process involving over 100 local stakeholders. This plan integrates long-term redevelopment and reconstruction opportunities into the community planning process.
The plan emphasizes seizing opportunities for hazard mitigation and community improvement consistent with the goals of the local comprehensive plan. Recovery topics include business resumption, housing repair, infrastructure restoration, sustainable land use, and environmental restoration, as well as other long-term recovery issues identified by the community. A map was developed to show high-priority redevelopment areas identified in the plan. These areas have the capacity to support additional development and can serve as locations for targeted infrastructure investment and places where expansion of operations or mitigation for congestion and encroachment would be appropriate.
Resources available to help you dig deeper:
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This tool provides the information port communities need to inject resilience measures into freight transportation planning and port infrastructure projects, measures that will make the port of tomorrow and the surrounding community stronger and more economically vibrant.
The Port Tomorrow: Resilience Planning Tool was developed by the NOAA Coastal Services Center along with other NOAA offices and members of the federal interagency Committee on the Marine Transportation System. Future iterations will incorporate feedback from a pilot community (Tampa, Florida) to ensure that the information and methods are aligned with the broader resilience objectives called for in the Committee on the Marine Transportation System’s strategic action plan.
Explore first. Browse through the site for a quick overview of top-level information. Left menu provides main navigation, for resilience categories, Background, and Resources.
Learn more. Dive deeper for access to additional content and resources when needed. Checklist pages provide navigation icons to related Port Profiles, Local Maps, and Local Stories.
For more information on the Port Tomorrow: Resilience Planning Tool, please contact the NOAA Coastal Services Center at email@example.com.
Ports are a critical link in the marine transportation system, the system that connects U.S. maritime commerce to the rest of the country. From marine navigation channels that guide massive vessels to berth—to roads, rails, and airways, our nation’s economic health is closely tied to this infrastructure. A few days of disruption can have crippling economic consequences in the coastal zone and the rest of the nation.
Aging infrastructure, larger ships, and a continued reliance on a global economy have many if not most ports and their communities thinking about infrastructure revitalization or expansion. Because the issues are complex and many people and organizations are involved, the federal government created the Committee on the Marine Transportation System to bring the various components together to ensure that present and future port and community needs are met.