As public squabbles go, the one involving Port Manatee and Port Tampa Bay reached far less than epic proportions.
The dispute appears to have been resolved, though it took the intervention of the Florida’s Department of Transportation secretary.
The issue bubbled to the surface late last year when the Manatee County Port Authority (better known as the county commission) heard Tampa had reached out to Tallahassee about consolidation with Manatee. Our Port Authority drafted a resolution in opposition to a merger.
Weeks later, there was a so-called “friendly competition” about which port could claim the title “Closest U.S. Port to the Panama Canal,” an important brand given canal expansion. The difference? Tampa’s the closest “full service” port, while Manatee is the nearest “deep water port.”
Then in March, Port Tampa Bay staged a worldwide pineapple conference but did not invite Port Manatee, which is the only port on Florida’s west coast to import the fruit.
So a Port Manatee representative went anyway, but got ejected at the door. Strange behavior, to say the least.
Enter FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad earlier this month. He served as a referee to broker peace and urge cooperation. He also stated there wasn’t any intent at consolidation and the idea came from Tallahassee, not Tampa.
With Port of St. Petersburg also at the table, the three ports agreed to end the “disparaging remarks” about one another and develop a regional leadership group and joint marketing strategy.
Now that sounds more like it.