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Manatee County Port Authority approves new master plan

Manatee County Port Authority Chair Betsy Benac and Port Manatee Executive Director Carlos Buqueras reviewing the 2016 Port Manatee Master Plan Update.
Manatee County Port Authority Chair Betsy Benac and Port Manatee Executive Director Carlos Buqueras reviewing the 2016 Port Manatee Master Plan Update. Provided photo

On Thursday, the Manatee County Port Authority approved the port’s 2016 master plan update. Increased cargo tonnage and a five-year, $126 million capital improvement and maintenance plan are a part of the port’s strategic objectives to make Port Manatee the Southwest Florida port of choice.

The report includes several growth scenarios showing how the port’s cargo tonnage will more than double over the next 10 years. The report was prepared by AECOM Technical Services Inc., a Los Angeles-based engineering and consulting firm. Deborah Scott-Queenin, port planner of transportation ports & marine for AECOM, presented the plan update at the Manatee County Port Authority meeting Thursday morning.

“We are encouraged by the positive opportunities presented in the master plan update,” said Betsy Benac, chairwoman of the Manatee County Port Authority. “Just as the plan was developed with extensive input from a wide range of community interests and stakeholders, we look forward to working synergistically with all parties in advancing initiatives to responsibly grow port operations, generating additional well-paying jobs and reaping further economic benefits for our region.”

The plan update projects continued growth in containerized cargo. Imports were up 40 percent year-over-year as of fiscal year ending March 31, according to a release from the port.

“The port handles 7 million tons of cargo per year,” Scott-Queenin said. “A number of economists predict strong long-term economic growth. Based on a market analysis Del Monte continues to be a strong business entity for the port. Asia remains a major importer for consumer goods.”

Scott-Queenin also noted the resurgence of petroleum coming through the port and the emerging sulfur and fly ash industries.

The report also outlines possibilities for exports to post-embargo Cuba and vehicle imports.

The 379-page 2016 master plan update can be viewed online at http://www.portmanatee.com/newsroom/port-publications.

Janelle O’Dea: 941-745-7095, @jayohday

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