Maritime traffic in the Gulf of Mexico increased in January when Florida-based Radiance Shipping Line began operations from the Port of Progreso in the Yucatan peninsula to Port Manatee near Tampa Bay.
The vessel used in this new service is the Rolo Luz B that carries containers, vehicles, farming machinery and general cargo. It makes the trip in 42 hours.
Starting in April a ferry service managed by Miami Center will start touring the area with services for both passengers and cargo between Progreso and Miami. The service will be offered by the MV Jupiter, a ship built in Scotland in 1974. It has capacity for 1,250 passengers and 360 vehicles. The vessel was previously used in an England-Norway route. It is now in dry dock being reconditioned for use in tropical waters.
In 2002 there was an attempt at running a regular ferry between Tampa and Progreso, but service was suspended when the ship Scotia Prince couldn't make a third stop at Puerto Morelos, near Cancun, because of shallow water.
New operations of these two vessels, notes Miami Center, "is warranted because of a very attractive maritime cargo market in the area, demonstrated by the fact that between 1997 and 2000, exports from Florida to Mexico nearly tripled."