News & Updates

Port Manatee Continues Proficiently Moving Record Trade as Southwest/Central Florida’s Premier Global Gateway

By Carlos Buqueras

Port Manatee’s vibrant containerized cargo trade keeps soaring to record heights, with the number of container units crossing port docks in the six months ended March 31 rising nearly 74 percent over the comparable year-earlier period.

An all-time-high 67,675 twenty-foot-equivalent container units moved through Port Manatee during the first half of the port’s current fiscal year, up 73.7 percent over the prior first-half record of 38,954 TEUs, established in the six months ended March 31, 2020.

Rapidly escalating volumes of both of Port Manatee’s primary containerized cargo carriers – World Direct Shipping and Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. – are propelling this unprecedented activity. Port Manatee is clearly on pace to shatter its full-fiscal-year record of 88,466 TEUs, set in the 12-month period ended Sept. 30, 2020.

Port Manatee-based World Direct Shipping, now in its eighth year of importing produce and other goods from Mexico, continues to augment its service offerings. One of the world’s most rapidly growing container lines, WDS has recently deployed a significantly larger third company-owned vessel, introduced a fleet of 53-foot-long ocean containers, added a fourth Mexican port of call and employed more than 30 workers at the port.

Meanwhile, Fresh Del Monte Produce, which has been bringing Latin American fruit to its Southeast distribution center at the port since 1989, has enhanced its vessel fleet with deployment of new-generation, energy-efficient containerships. These ships provide significant sustainability and operational advances while heralding the next era in Port Manatee’s long-term partnership with one of North America’s leading marketers and distributors of fresh produce.

In its recently completed first fiscal half, Port Manatee also reached a new pinnacle in containerized cargo tons handled, with the 499,716 short tons of containerized loads moved in the past six months up 56.6 percent over the previous record of 319,096 short tons handled in the first half of fiscal 2020.

Total short tons of cargo moving through Port Manatee in the first half of fiscal 2021 reached 4,859,490, up 6.5 percent from a year earlier. The overall increase was mainly driven by the containerized cargo boom, as well as a 24 percent rise in dry bulk tons handled, to 1,088,328 short tons. General cargo throughput, led by big gains in lumber and wood pulp imports, rose 10.7 percent, to 261,969 short tons.

Reggie Bellamy, chairman of the Manatee County Port Authority, points out that Port Manatee’s record activity demonstrates the seaport’s continuing advancement as Central and Southwest Florida’s preferred gateway for global commerce. Not only is the port capably fulfilling escalating demands of consumers and industry, but it also is adding to its already-impressive contributions to the region’s socioeconomic well-being.

Located “Where Tampa Bay Meets the Gulf of Mexico,” Port Manatee is a dynamic global trade hub, serving as the vibrant ships-to-shelves gateway for burgeoning Southwest and Central Florida markets. The closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the expanded Panama Canal, Port Manatee offers 10 deep-draft berths, proficiently fulfilling diverse demands of container, bulk, breakbulk, heavylift, project and general cargo customers. The self-sustaining port 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.

About the Author:

In his 10th year at the helm of Port Manatee, Carlos Buqueras shares more than three decades of distinguished Florida port leadership. Under the foresighted direction of the Manatee County Port Authority, he has collaborated with public- and private-sector partners in leading the diverse Southwest-Central Florida Gulf Coast port through a period of unprecedented accomplishment, highlighted by numerous records for total tonnage throughput and containerized and bulk cargo activity. Prior to joining Port Manatee as executive director in January 2012, Buqueras served 22 years as director of business development at Port Everglades, in South Florida’s Broward County.