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Business Observer Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022 1 week ago

Area port prepares for continued growth in the new year

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Port Manatee has continued on an upward path of growth that's led to an $8 million expansion project. The challenge now? Stay ahead of demand trends.
by: Amanda Postma Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Entity: Port Manatee has been going nonstop since the pandemic hit. 

“That was a critical mission that the gas supply flowed flawlessly,” says Executive Director Carlos Buqueras. “None of us stopped working.” 

The biggest takeaway of 2021 was that port was able to continue operating while also growing. A key example: the port now handles more containers than ever before. Port Manatee reported a record 88,466 20-foot equivalent units of containerized cargo when the fiscal year ended September 2020. That was a 55% increase over the preceding year.

Also, with the pandemic putting the crimp on the supply chain, shipping lines wanted to be closer to their customers. Port officials saw a marketing opportunity and took it. They did hand-to-hand marketing, visiting shipping lines, when they could, to see what those customers needed and how the port could better serve them. Because of these efforts, the port is expanding its infrastructure to keep up with the growth. 

Opportunities: As the port continues expanding and growing through the new year, Buqueras says they have to prepare. 

“The opportunity for the port is really to prepare for more growth,” he says, adding that ensuring shipping lines continue to choose Port Manatee is another important task. 

“We’re consumer driven to some degree,” Buqueras says, “so the growth will continue as demand continues.” 

Leading into the new year, Buqueras notes there doesn’t seem to be a slowdown in lack of demand for commodities. The port is amid an $8 million expansion to keep up with the continued demand that will expand the container yard, with the addition of 9.3 acres to the existing 10-acre paved facility.

Threats: The biggest challenge facing the port in 2022 is ensuring operations continue uninterrupted. But even up against the unknown, the port is ready.  

“We have a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C,” Buqueras says. “We do not anticipate anything we cannot handle.” 

He follows that up with how the port handled the pandemic as an example, using its nimble approach to shift quickly. With the larger volume of cargo, Buqueras says it’s important that the port continues to move it in and out at an efficient pace. “We’ll continue to build ahead of demand,” he says. “There’s plenty of land for port expansion. The plan is to plan ahead of growth.”

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