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American Shipper

Port Manatee looks to expand South American import network

Officials from the Florida Gulf Coast port and trade representatives from Ecuador met earlier this week to discuss the potential for increasing South American imports to Central and Southwest Florida markets.

Discussing trade opportunities between Port Manatee and Ecuador are, from left: Daniela Muñoz, business development manager for Pro Ecuador; Manuel Echeverria Castro, Ecuador’s trade commissioner for the southern United States; and Carlos Buqueras, executive director of Port Manatee.

   Port Manatee could soon be getting a boost from Ecuadorian import cargoes.
   Officials from the Florida Gulf Coast port and trade representatives from Ecuador met earlier this week to discuss the potential for increasing South American imports to Central and Southwest Florida markets.
   “Opportunities are really growing for reaching Central and Southwest Florida by way of Port Manatee,” said Manuel Echeverria Castro, Ecuador’s trade commissioner for the southern United States. “We have a very high interest in Port Manatee. We are looking to increase awareness that ports on the Gulf of Mexico, such as Port Manatee, offer great opportunity, in addition to traditional South Florida gateways.”
   Echeverria said that about 30 percent of Ecuador’s non-oil exports go to the United States, with 40 percent of those products currently entering through Florida ports. Past shipments into Port Manatee from Ecuador have included bananas and fertilizer, but Echeverria said other goods such as mangos, shrimp, cocoa beans, chocolate and apparel could enter the port as well.         
   “Growing trade with Ecuador and other Latin American countries seeking ready access to Central and Southwest Florida markets bodes to significantly enhance Port Manatee’s already impressive position as a critical economic engine for our region,” said Vanessa Baugh, chairwoman of the Manatee County Port Authority.
   The port has had visits from several Latin American countries, including Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, the Domincan Republic and Chile. According to the port, the International Trade Hub at Port Manatee has played an integral role in attracting for such activity since its opening in 2014.
   “We greatly appreciate the interest shown in Port Manatee by Ecuadorian trade officials and we look forward to working together to advance mutually beneficial commercial ties,” said Carlos Buqueras, Port Manatee’s executive director. 
   
According to ocean carrier schedule and capacity database BlueWater Reporting, Port Manatee is called by two services from Mexico and Central America. Other Florida ports, including Miami and Port Everglades, offer a combined three services to and from Ecuador.