Major Anchor

By Susan Burns March 1, 2011

In April, Port Manatee will begin a $50 million dredging project in its evolution to become an important player in container shipping. Already, the port—which has largely been a terminal for bulk shipping for products such as cement, fertilizer, lumber, fruit and petroleum—injects $2.3 billion into the regional economy. More than 1,000 workers a day make their living there, and another 24,000 jobs are impacted by port activities. As the closest deepwater port to the Panama Canal, the port plans to take advantage of the canal’s $5 billion expansion and a huge increase in container shipping. In preparation, the port has purchased container cranes, is expanding its southernmost berth, is building a yard to hold hundreds of thousands of containers, and is gearing up to attract warehousing and distribution businesses. Here’s a look.

What’s On Board?

Huge ships filled with melons and bananas from Central America, granite from Canada, limestone from Mexico and petroleum from all over the world line the berths. Other ships, laden with fertilizer, liner board and road-building equipment, head back out to Central and Latin America.

Close To Panama

Nine million tons of cargo move in and out of the port every year, a volume that should increase once the Panama Canal expansion is finished.

Produce Section

Del Monte Fresh Produce, one of the port’s largest tenants, brings in 380,000 tons of bananas, pineapples, melons, mangoes and plantains annually. The port’s most profitable import is fresh fruit from Latin and Central America.

Heavy Lifting

New mobile harbor cranes were purchased for container shipping.

What’s In Storage

A 174,000-square-foot warehouse holds cargo such as forestry products, steel and aluminum from Central and Latin America. The port has more than a million square feet of warehouse and office space.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

By volume, the biggest import is refined petroleum used in power plants, ships, rail, trucks, cars and planes.

What A Gas

An underground pipeline owned by Gulfstream Natural Gas brings in 1.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day, which is sent to FPL and other utilities. By 2013, Port Dolphin Energy hopes to connect to this pipeline from its port 28 miles offshore.

Master Plan

The Port Manatee Improvement District contains 5,000 largely undeveloped acres of privately held land zoned to attract port-related businesses. The port plans a $750 million expansion over the next 20 to 30 years, making it one of the top two or three ports in Florida.

Stack ’Em Up

A new 52-acre container yard next to Berth 12 will manage up to 500,000 containers annually.

Location, Location, Location

Located off U.S. 41 in Palmetto, Port Manatee is in a rural environment with good highways and rail, important to shippers and one of the port’s biggest assets.

Bring ’Em In

Berth 12 will be dredged and extended by 584 feet for a total of 1,584 feet in order to handle container ships. The project will be finished October 2011.

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