A federal security grant totaling more than $1.8 million is expected to make Port Manatee a more open and navigable place for port customers, first responders and truck drivers.
Port Manatee will use the money to add functionality to its South Dock Street gate, convert offices at its intermodal center into a training and emergency response center, and digitally map infrastructure and traffic patterns on 1,100 acres of fenced port property in Palmetto. Port staff applied for the funds about four months ago and was notified of the grant award this week.
Between the grant and about $459,000 in matching funds from the port's budget, Port Manatee will spend almost $2.3 million on the work over the next two years. Port Manatee received the second-largest FEMA seaport security grant among Florida ports this year, about $100,000 less than the Port of Palm Beach. Nearby Port Tampa Bay garnered $1.69 million from the program.
During the previous five years, Port Manatee received a total of $2.75 million in FEMA security grant funding.
Perhaps the most noticeable project will be an enlarged access gate on South Dock Street that will include temporary ID processing and widened lanes for oversized cargo. Using $1 million of the grant and local funds, the port will rebuild entry and exit roadways to accommodate large-cargo shipping clients such as Air Products, a Palmetto heat exchanger manufacturer. Those heat exchangers are 180 feet long and almost 16 feet wide.
"For our long-term future, it is a benefit," said Air Products spokesman Art George. "We expect our equipment, which is already large, to become larger than it is today."
Money will also go toward replicating the temporary ID card production capabilities currently available only at the port's main access control facility on North Dock Street. Truck and other vehicle drivers entering the port without a transporta
tion worker identification must be issued temporary IDs to do business in the secure portion of port property.
David St. Pierre, port director of seaport security, said south gate staff levels may have to be increased to properly screen a higher volume of traffic and to process ID cards. Currently, the gate is staffed by no more than two security officers at a time.
At the 45,000-square-foot intermodal center, $700,000 will go into moving office walls, purchasing new audio-visual equipment and furnishings and making the building more accessible to the public. St. Pierre said improvements are designed to convert a portion of the office space into port security training classrooms. The reconfigured space will double as emergency response facilities.
To allow for hassle-free access for those attending training events and for emergency responders entering the port, the intermodal center will be moved outside the port's security perimeter. To accomplish this, the port will need to build a road stretching from the unsecured portion of S. Dock Street to the intermodal center parking lot. A portion of the port's security fence will also need to be moved.
Even so, the port won't lose track of anyone, or anything, on port property. The port will spend $750,000 on GIS software and hardware and is hiring consultants to map every part of port operations. Electrical junctions, roads, ditches, buildings and anything under and above ground at the port will be on the map. Under its most simple application, the GIS map would, for example, allow maintenance personnel to instantly find a shutoff for a broken water line rather than search through a multitude of documentation.
Port staff will be trained to update the GIS information to keep its map current.
Mapped information will also be used to develop traffic plans for directing multiple streams of trucks and goods throughout the port during busy shipping periods. St. Pierre said the port will be able to preplan traffic impacts, schedule oversized cargo trucking for non-peak hours and plan alternate traffic routes when port roads get busy.
"This is really important as we continue to grow," St. Pierre said.
The port will likely receive the federal money in August. It will have two years to finish the funded projects.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.