Port Master Plan To Include Long Term Cruise Plans - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Port Master Plan To Include Long Term Cruise Plans

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Bay County, Fla. -

The Panama City Port Authority revises its master plan every five years, 2008 was the last time it was conducted, so it's time for an update.

Wayne Stubbs, Port Panama City Executive Director, has been at the helm of the port since the early 2000's. At that time, they were aggressively pursuing the cruise industry. "We brought in a consultant, we developed a plan, it was feasible, up to a certain size of ships, and we put it in our plan," Stubbs said.

However since then, ships have grown larger and more demanding. So where do the plans stand 10 year later?

"I think to be realistic, unless something very unusual happens in terms of an operator of a small ship, its going to be years before we have a realistic chance to offer something to the cruise industry," Stubbs replied.

Rough estimates by the Port Authority suggest it would take a minimum of $15-20 million for infrastructure. The investment would cover the necessary dredging, parking and potential terminal.

But a recent ABC News report discovered that it takes a lot of risk to lure in a cruise ship, one that left taxpayers in Mobile, Alabama with the bill for an investment that never flourished.

"They lost their cruise line a year ago and they still owe over $20 million on that terminal," Stubbs added. "We just simply can not be gambling with the port's money or public money on trying to chase cruise business by building a terminal first and hoping it will come."

Representative Jimmy Patronis says those numbers are troubling, but that's not a reason to keep us out of the game; one day, he's like to see a cruise pulling into Port Panama City.

"I think when it comes to comparing us to Mobile, we have a whole lot more to offer. Now we're not a New Orleans, we're not a Mobile, but what we do have are fantastic beaches which I think compliments a cruise ship." Patronis said.

Bay County Commissioner Mike Thomas, who also serves on the Bay County TDC says the commission learned its lessons after the Red Pine dispute and believes they will really consider the risks, before throwing any money at a cruise company.