Port Manatee-based World Direct Shipping (WDS) has extended its agreement with the Central-Southwest Florida seaport and added a third vessel to its rapidly growing weekly services across the Gulf of Mexico. The extension could bring total value of the WDS contract through 2026 to more than $8 million, inclusive of dockage, wharfage and related charges, Port Manatee officials said on Tuesday, Jan. 14. Since initiating one weekly service to Port Manatee from the southern Veracruz port of Coatzacoalcos with a single vessel in late 2014, World Direct Shipping has extended its offerings to Tuxpan, the closest commercial port to Mexico City, as well as Tampico, in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. World Direct Shipping’s cargo volume rose 90 percent in 2019 from 2018, with total throughput reaching nearly 50,000 twenty-foot-equivalent container units, or TEUs, according to Carlos Diaz, the company’s director. WDS' latest vessel is the 430-foot-long M/V Queen B II, which made its first arrival at Port Manatee on Jan. 10, bringing 231 high-cube, 40-foot-long empty refrigerated containers from China. It joins a second similar WDS-owned containership, the M/V Queen B, as well as the chartered 456-foot-long AS Laeticia, in World Direct Shipping’s cross-Gulf sailings. The M/V Queen B and M/V Queen B II will be dedicated to the weekly services from Coatzacoalcos and Tampico, while the slightly larger AS Laeticia is being deployed on Tuxpan sailings.