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Focus on Manatee: Here’s how salt is seasoning Port Manatee’s diverse mix of cargo

A bird’s-eye view of Port Manatee

Port Manatee is described in this promotional video published by Manatee County Government in 2017 as Southwest Florida's premier deepwater seaport located at the entrance to Tampa Bay. It adds more than $2.3 billion annually in local economic imp
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Port Manatee is described in this promotional video published by Manatee County Government in 2017 as Southwest Florida's premier deepwater seaport located at the entrance to Tampa Bay. It adds more than $2.3 billion annually in local economic imp

Salt is essential to life on earth and is one of the world’s most ubiquitous seasonings and preservatives.

Indeed, biblically speaking, those of faith are metaphorically referred to as the salt of the earth.

And, from a maritime standpoint, longtime sailors may be called old salts, likely because of the saline content of oceans and, in fact, the Gulf of Mexico.

Here at Port Manatee, salt also is a key ingredient, part of a diverse cargo mix that ranges from bananas and pineapples and citrus juices to forest products and metals to natural gas and gasoline.

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Supersacks of imported salt – each containing 63 bags weighing 40 pounds apiece – are stacked in a laydown area outside a berthside warehouse at Port Manatee. Provided photo

For years, salt has been pouring into Port Manatee from throughout the world. While past shipments have included bulk table salt brought in through the Panama Canal from Chilean desert mines by top North American marketer Morton Salt, bagged at the port and shipped to local institutions and even Walt Disney World, much of the present activity is focused on importation of salt used for nonedible purposes.

Salt imported into Port Manatee by multiple companies is used in such applications as swimming pool and water treatment, deicing, various industrial processes and animal feed, with shipments coming from as near as Mexico and as far away as Brazil and Turkey.

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Carlos Buqueras is the executive director at Port Manatee.

Among the major current importers of salt into Port Manatee is AMEsalt, a company with worldwide headquarters in the Port Manatee Intermodal Center, the same building as is home to the International Trade Hub at Port Manatee.

True to the global nature of the port, AMEsalt has as its president João de Sa Nogueira, born in South Africa of Portuguese heritage and a fluent speaker of five languages.

AMEsalt, which maintains a Port Manatee warehouse in addition to its offices, is entering its sixth year of imports into Port Manatee.

Typically, the product comes in via supersacks, with each containing 63 bags weighing 40 pounds apiece. Most recent shipments not only have wound up treating water in year-round pools in warmer climates but also have been used in making roadways in the snowy, icy Northeast more safely travelable by motorists.

Salts imported by AMEsalt for food usage are produced within the framework of Kosher hygiene rules, meaning the product is untouched by human hands from beginning to end of the production line.

All told, nearly 540,000 short tons of salt, with a total value of $117 million, have arrived at Port Manatee over the past eight years alone.

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Ship’s gear is used to offload supersacks of imported salt at a Port Manatee berth, not far from the global headquarters of AMEsalt in the Port Manatee Intermodal Center. Provided photo

So, while it is by no means the port’s biggest commodity, salt may be viewed as perfectly seasoning Port Manatee’s ever-expanding cargo mix — a varied blend of goods that are critical to Port Manatee achieving its mission as a primary socioeconomic engine directly and indirectly supporting more than 24,000 jobs while generating annual impacts in excess of $2.3 billion.

In following its recently updated master plan and in accord with the direction of the Manatee County Port Authority board, the port continues to diversify to best ensure continuing success regardless of commodity-specific vicissitudes.

No pepper imports ... at least, not yet.

Carlos Buqueras is the executive director at Port Manatee and can be reached at cbuqueras@portmanatee.com.

Potential return of cruise ships could help diversify Port Manatee.

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