Port Manatee in 1970, left, and today.

Port Manatee in 1970, left, and today.

Port Manatee is celebrating a half-century as a global commercial hub, with Thursday, Oct. 29, proclaimed "Port Manatee Day" in recognition of the 50-year anniversary of the port’s dedication. Port Manatee is the closest deepwater seaport to the expanded Panama Canal. The port generates more than $3.9 billion in annual economic impacts and provides more than 27,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The port's formal dedication ceremony was held Oct. 29, 1970, 82 days after it 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. 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.

Due to Covid-19, port officials have canceled anniversary celebrations; however, they hope to reschedule the commemorative events in 2021.

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