Port Manatee dredging advances
Part of major expansion aimed at attracting containerized trade to Gulf port.
By Chris Dupin
The Manatee County Port Authority has awarded a contract to dredge Berth 12, a key step in the port's effort to attract containerized cargo, and the final piece of Port Manatee's 11-year, $200 million expansion.
The port authority awarded Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. the contract to dredge the berth to 41 feet and extend it from 1,000 feet to nearly 1,600 feet.
Great Lakes' $14.8 million bid was accepted just two months after the port authority rejected initial bids for exceeding the engineer's project cost estimate. The rebid process resulted in a $2.3 million savings for the port ' 14 percent less than the original bid. Under the winning bid, 1.1 million cubic yards of material will be excavated and removed by hydraulic dredge to a certified uplands spoil disposal site.
'Port staff's many years in dealing with dredging issues made us confident that a more favorable outcome was probable by rebidding the project,' said David L. McDonald, Port Manatee's executive director. 'The savings provided by the lower bid creates a more certain timeline for the project's completion.'
Port Manatee expects Berth 12, which sits adjacent to a planned 52-acre container terminal, to be operational and ready to accommodate containerized shipping by early 2011.
Last month the port took delivery of a second mobile harbor container crane. The purchase of the crane and a similar Gottwald crane is the result of a public-private partnership between the port and stevedoring company Logistec.
Port Manatee is three miles from the main Tampa shipping channel, near where it passes beneath the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
In addition to its location near the mouth of Tampa Bay, Port Manatee has 'the land, political will and management experience to grow not just the port, but the maritime community that serves the port,' said Steve Tyndal, senior director of trade development and special projects.
Richard Wainio, executive director of the nearby Port of Tampa, said in an interview with American Shipper earlier this year that he felt his port had an edge over the more southerly Port Manatee in attracting container carriers because so much of the Tampa Bay population is located north and west of Tampa.
But Tyndal said Port Manatee's rural location in Bradenton is an advantage because 'we have land, which is a rarity in most port environments, that is incentivized locally to attract distribution centers and terminal operators.'
He pointed to the 5,000-acre Port Manatee Encouragement Zone, created by the port authority and Manatee County Commission, which would provide economic incentives to facilities to set up in the area. The port has had discussions with developers of distribution centers and warehouses about building new facilities within the zone.
Earlier this year, construction began on a new half-mile rail spur at the Port Manatee Commerce Center warehouse complex located right outside the port's gate.
Port Manatee is also planning construction of a connector road of its own from the port and surrounding area to Interstate 75.
Available space and rail service were features that attracted Seabridge Freight to the port, said Hank Hoffman, the company's chief executive officer.
Seabridge sails between Port Manatee and Brownsville, Texas, carrying containers ' many filled with heavy products such as tile ' as well as steel and oversize items such as electric utility poles.
Earlier this year 400 ModSpace modular units at Port Manatee were shipped to Chile in the aftermath of the February earthquake.
Manatee has a broad mix of cargo, including containerized, breakbulk and bulk commodities.
The company also has weekly sailings by Del Monte, which brings containers loaded with pineapples, bananas and plantains. During melon season, Del Monte may bring several additional ships each week.
Last year the company also began receiving melons from another company, Fresh Quest, on a seasonal basis.
One of the attractions of Port Manatee, said Tyndal, is its southerly location, which allows a company like Del Monte to provide weekly service to and from Central America using a single ship.
Bulk products are also a part of the commodity mix at Port Manatee, though not on the same scale as in Tampa, the center of Florida's phosphate rock trade.
Martin Marietta Materials is expected in September to complete work on a new high-speed aggregate conveyor system. Nearly a mile long, it will connect a ship unloader to a new 20-acre aggregate terminal. Martin Marietta plans to import granite and limestone for road-building and creating asphalt and concrete.