Port Manatee experiencing record container cargo business, sets new six-month record

Port Manatee

In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, Port Manatee is experiencing a boom in business with containerized cargo trade increasing nearly 74 percent in the six months ending March 31, compared to the same period a year earlier. An all-time-high 67,675 20-foot-equivalent container units (TEUs) 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, 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 the unprecedented activity,” Carlos Buqueras, Port Manatee’s executive director, said in a press release. “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 continues to augment its service offerings, now in its eight year of importing produce and other goods from Mexico, while Fresh Del Monte Produce, which has been bringing Latin American fruit to its Southeast distribution center at the port since 1989, is now deploying new-generation, energy-efficient container ships. In January 2020, the Herald reported that World Direct Shipping had become the fastest growing import container line in the United States, ranking 29th in size nationally, according to the Journal of Commerce.

World Direct started business at Port Manatee in 2014 with a single vessel making weekly voyages to the Mexican port of Coatzacoalcos, to import agricultural goods to the United States.

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6/7/2019–Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. has helped drive containerized cargo trade to record heights at Port Manatee. Bradenton Herald file photo

Since then, World Direct has added two more vessels and extended its service to include Tuxpan, the closest commercial port to Mexico City, as well as Tampico in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. 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 cargo moving through Port Manatee in the first half of fiscal 2021 reached 4.9 million tons, 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.

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Containerized cargo trade is soaring to record heights at Port Manatee, driven in part by new-generation container ships being deployed by Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. provided photo

“Port Manatee’s record activity demonstrates its continuing advancement as Central and Southwest Florida’s preferred gateway for global commerce,” Reggie Bellamy, chairman of the Manatee County Port Authority, said in the press release.

“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,” Bellamy said. 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 without benefit of local property tax support.

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Carlos Diaz has helped make World Direct Shipping a rising star in direct ocean transport between Port Manatee and Mexico. Bradenton Herald file photo