PORT MANATEE -- A new partnership between Port Manatee and Rio de Janeiro's port could bring more business to Manatee County.
Port Manatee and Docas do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro's Port Authority, will become International Sister Seaports, establishing new opportunities for foreign trade between the U.S. and Brazil.
The seaport relationship is the first time a Florida Gulf Coast seaport has entered into such an agreement.
"It's a very big deal because we are the only port in the Gulf Coast of Florida that has this kind of relationship," said Carol Whitmore, chairwoman of the Manatee Port Authority board.
Jorge Luiz de Mello, president-director of the Rio de Janeiro Port Authority, will sign the agreement in Manatee County on Tuesday during a Manatee County Port Authority meeting to be held during a regular meeting of the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners.
Carlos Buqueras, executive director of Port Manatee, and Whitmore will sign on behalf of Port Manatee.
Buqueras described the partnership as "Olympic" it's like winning an Olympic gold when you weren't expected to make a showing, he said. "All of a sudden it's Wow! Port Manatee."
The International Sister Seaports Agreement will help establish regular shipping lines between Port Manatee and Brazilian seaports including the Rio de Janeiro Port Authority and will allow for the free and uninhibited exchange of information related to the two ports' cargo industries, statistics, planned infrastructure developments, marketing and research. The agreement will also establish goodwill ambassadors to exchange educational visits between the ports and help implement the intent of the agreement.
Brazil is Florida's largest trade partner, and Port Manatee is a principal importer in the Southeastern U.S. of Brazilian orange juice and lumber.
While Buqueras couldn't put a specific dollar value to the partnership, he did say it's like getting free Superbowl advertising.
"There's tremendous visibility," he said. "Port Manatee will have access to hundreds of Brazilian companies. The Port Manatee logo will been seen all over the country by 200 million Brazilians."