News & Updates

Port Manatee celebrates 50 years as regional economic engine

- Port Manatee

Port Manatee is celebrating a half-century as a powerful regional economic catalyst and global commercial hub, with today [Thursday, Oct. 29] proclaimed Port Manatee Day in recognition of the 50-year anniversary of the diverse port’s dedication.

“As the closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the expanded Panama Canal, perfectly positioned on the doorstep of dynamic markets of Southwest and Central Florida, with thousands of acres ripe for development, Port Manatee is on the cusp of an even more vibrant half century to come,” said Priscilla Whisenant Trace, chairwoman of the Manatee County Port Authority, which unanimously approved the Port Manatee Day proclamation at its Tuesday [Oct. 27] meeting.

The self-sustaining port already generates more than $3.9 billion in annual economic impacts while providing for more than 27,000 direct and indirect jobs, all without benefit of local property tax support. In its fiscal year ended Sept. 30, Port Manatee handled a record 88,466 twenty-foot-equivalent units of containerized cargo, up nearly 55 percent from the preceding 12-month period.

From its humble beginnings in 1970 (left), the present Port Manatee (right) has emerged as a global hub of commerce, with thousands of surrounding acres still ripe for development.
(Historical photo courtesy of Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collections.)

Port Manatee’s formal dedication ceremony was held Oct. 29, 1970. That was 82 days after the fledgling port received its first vessel call, with 2,000 tons of Korean plywood offloaded from the M/V Fermland on Aug. 7, 1970. Setting the stage for the port’s birth were two 1965 events: Manatee County’s purchase of 357 acres near Piney Point for $900 per acre with intent to launch the Barge and Industrial Port, and the Florida Legislature’s passage of legislation creating the Manatee County Port Authority.

 “A proactive diversification strategy and ongoing infrastructure enhancements have ensured five decades of leadership for Port Manatee and are establishing the foundation for further prosperity for future generations,” said Carlos Buqueras, Port Manatee’s executive director.

Projects currently under way at Port Manatee include a near-doubling of the port’s 10-acre dockside container yard. The port offers 10 cargo berths, each with 40-foot draft, serving container, bulk, breakbulk, heavylift, project and general cargo customers.

While, with fortified health and safety procedures, cargo has continued to flow through Port Manatee since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, port officials had to cancel planned golden anniversary celebration activities, with hopes of rescheduling commemorative events in 2021.

Go online to to view a short video celebrating Port Manatee’s 50-year anniversary.