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Port Manatee touts presence at Panama Canal celebration

Matty Appice, Port Manatee’s chief commercial officer, smiles at newly expanded lock facilities of the Panama Canal.
Matty Appice, Port Manatee’s chief commercial officer, smiles at newly expanded lock facilities of the Panama Canal. Provided photo

Port Manatee’s Chief Commercial Officer Matty Appice visited the Panama Canal last week to celebrate the reopening of the canal and its new set of larger locks that double its cargo access capacity. Port Manatee is the closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the Panama Canal.

Appice is confident the new and improved Panama Canal will bring more business, jobs and money to Port Manatee and Manatee County. But bringing more business to Port Manatee involves more than just welcoming more ships. Most regular cargo vessels visiting the port are significantly smaller than the 1,200-foot-long super freighters the revamped canal will accommodate, the Herald has reported.

“Port Manatee is perfectly positioned to gain increased cargo volumes as a result of the Panama Canal expansion,” Appice said in a Port Manatee release. “In particular, we anticipate benefiting from calls of feeder vessels that bring containers from Asia via transshipment hubs on the Atlantic/Gulf side of the expanded canal. This should translate to additional jobs and other economic benefits for Manatee County and beyond.”

Dave Sanford, the port’s deputy executive director, told the Herald that the port’s strategy is to attract a mix of big ships that have previously offloaded some cargo or fuel weight and smaller vessels loaded with cargo from the big, trans-Pacific freighters. The port’s marketing will focus on bringing more shipping containers to its docks. During the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the port handled 25,778 containers, more than any time since 2010. It expects to bring in more than 30,000 this year.

The $5.2 billion Panama Canal project was completed about a year behind schedule. Any shipping agreements stemming from the canal’s reopen are still ongoing, Appice told the Herald Tuesday.

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

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