PORT MANATEE -- Having made up almost $1 million in revenue lost when its largest fertilizer shipping client pulled its business late last year, Port Manatee will end mandatory monthly furloughs of its 54 employees before the last week in August.
The port started the furloughs in January as a cost- saving measure to make up for losing The Mosaic Co.'s bulk fertilizer shipments. Mosaic shifted 635,000 tons shipping it had done through Port Manatee for years to other ports in the Tampa Bay area. The port previously earned about $940,000 a year from the shipments and storage operations.
As of the end of May, the port had earned $898,761, up by about $113,000 for the same period in 2014. Dave Sanford, the port's deputy executive director, said the port is notching its best July revenue in several years.
Starting in January, employees were furloughed one day a month. The furloughs were supposed to last through the Sept. 30 end of the port's fiscal year.
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Last month, the port marked revenues that seemed good enough to end the furloughs early. As it turns out, employees will be back to a full work schedule five weeks ahead of time.
Port Executive Director Carlos Buqueras, said business at the port has picked up over the same time last
year. Over the weekend, five ships were berthed at the port. It required port officials to take the rare step of actually allocating ships to specific berths. Typically, ship captains can choose from several empty berths when they arrive.
Buqueras said the port has seen an uptick in shipments of steel plates, steel coils, lumber and raw materials this year.
He said he is grateful port personnel were able to give Port Manatee the breathing room it needed to grow its business in 2014.
"We appreciate the support given that a mutual contribution to this situation prevented the port from having some unwanted layoffs," he said.
The port did lay off two of its rail yard personnel this year. Those vacancies will not be filled.
Carol Whitmore, chairwoman of the Manatee County Port Authority, said she is pleased to see the port make financial strides in a year that started with bad news.
"We're really pushing the business," she said.
The port has calculated how much money it saved from the furloughs, however, the figures were not released Thursday.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.