State and local officials dedicated Port Manatee’s reconstructed Berth 9 on Thursday.
The $10.3 million berth rehabilitation project, with 75 percent of funding provided by the Florida Department of Transportation, was years in the making. Upon completion, Berth 9 bolsters the Port’s receiving power with a stronger dock, according to port officials.
Manatee County Port Authority Chairwoman Vanessa Baugh said opening Berth 9 tells the world that Port Manatee is “ready for business.”
“A lot of you might not realize that that berth was 40 years old,” Baugh said to a roomful of more than 100 people at the dedication ceremony. “Can you imagine the types of ships that were coming here 40 years ago compared to today? The nice thing is that now we can pretty much take any ship that comes into this port at Berth 9.”
In 2015, Orion Marine Construction of Houston won a seven-way bid to reconstruct Berth 9. The work consisted of demolishing the old dock, replacing it and building a new seawall. Previously Berth 9 could handle about 600 pounds per square foot, and the reconstruction enables it to take on roughly 1,000 pounds per square foot.
Berth 9 is one of six scheduled for reconstruction. The total scope of work is expected to cost more than $60 million.
State Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, attended the dedication and expressed support for ongoing infrastructure improvements at Port Manatee.
“We want to help you grow,” Boyd said. “We think it’s the best port in the state of Florida and probably in the Southeast and maybe beyond. Anything we can do to help you continue that momentum, we want to do.”
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, was in Washington on Thursday but sent a letter to the dedication, read by Buchanan special assistant Gary Tibbetts.
“As the closest deep-water port to the Panama Canal and with easy access to major interstates and rails, Port Manatee is positioned to grow, create new jobs and further diversify our economy,” Tibbetts read from the letter. “The completion of Berth 9 will help achieve that goal.”
Paul Simmons, FDOT District 1 modal development administrator, admits he is “a little biased” when it comes to evaluating the port’s position in Florida.
“But I think Port Manatee is the most important seaport that we have in the state,” Simmons said. “So we need to assure that this port continues to grow and expand.”