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Focus on Manatee: Port Manatee serving as base for NOAA navigational survey

With activity as dynamically diverse as any port in the nation, Port Manatee is now serving as base of operations for a critical survey of waters of Tampa Bay and nearby areas of the Gulf of Mexico as part of federal efforts to ensure safe navigation.

Under contract with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oceaneering International Inc.’s purpose-built R/V Sea Scout is on course to this month complete a four-month mapping survey encompassing more than 650 square nautical miles.

The new data is used by NOAA to revise navigational maps crucial to the safe passage of vessels moving in and out of Tampa Bay, including those calling berths at Port Manatee as well as port facilities farther up the bay.

Not surprisingly, Oceaneering’s choice of Port Manatee as operational base for its U.S.-flagged, 134-foot-long R/V Sea Scout was in part guided by the location of the Manatee County seaport near the entrance to Tampa Bay.

Indeed, Port Manatee and those our port serves continue to benefit in many ways from ideal positioning as closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the expanded Panama Canal, directly across the Gulf of Mexico from bountiful Mexican produce sources and at the gateway to fast-growing consumer markets of Southwest and Central Florida.

But the selection of Port Manatee as hub for the geophysical survey work extended further, with Oceaneering leadership pointing to ready availability of landside equipment, marine fuel and a broad spectrum of logistical services, including those furnished by ship agent Inchcape Shipping Services, plus the highly cooperative nature of the people of Port Manatee.

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Carlos Buqueras is the executive director at Port Manatee.

Oceaneering Survey Services’ marine operations manager, Tim R. White, advises that Port Manatee’s proactive interaction with his firm has helped keep the vital endeavor moving forward without any significant issues or delays.

The wide range of activity taking place at Port Manatee is no accident. Under astute direction of the Manatee County Port Authority and steered by its recently updated master plan, Port Manatee continues its deliberate diversification initiative as it looks to further boost its impressive contributions to the region’s economy, which already top $2.3 billion a year, with direct and indirect support of more than 24,000 jobs, all without levying of a penny of ad valorem taxes.

Moving record volumes across numerous cargo sectors, Port Manatee fuels Southwest Florida with throughput of more than 420 million gallons of gasoline a year while serving as gateway for 73 million gallons of fruit juices and more than more than 400,000 tons of fruits and vegetables, including bananas and pineapples shipped throughout U.S. Southeast.

The port also is home to hubs for regional supply of marine fuels and ship repairs, with a world-leading facility for fabrication of massive liquefied natural gas heat exchangers just across U.S. 41. Meanwhile, the International Trade Hub at Port Manatee is a valued catalyst for global commerce connections.

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As Port Manatee maintains and expands upon its commitment to diverse growth, it is building a broad revenue base that is increasingly insulated against changing circumstances related to specific cargoes.

At the same time, the port is furthering the scope of its positive impacts throughout our region and beyond.

Carlos Buqueras is the executive director at Port Manatee and can be reached at

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