PORT MANATEE -- Looking to add to its book of Central and South American business, Port Manatee joined a recent Florida trade mission to Honduras designed to promote ports along the state's West Coast.
Matty Appice, Port Manatee's senior director of trade development and sales, traveled to the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa as part of a Dec. 1-3 Enterprise Florida mission. Led by Florida Commerce Secretary Bill Johnson, the mission sought to highlight Florida in its entirety as a trade partner. Appice, the only port representative from the Tampa Bay-Central Florida region, said he worked to build name recognition for Port Manatee and the state's west coast. Aside from Belize and Guatemala, Honduras is the nearest Central American nation to Florida.
"It really was introducing the West Coast option," Appice said.
Officials with South Florida's PortMiami and Port Everglades were the only other port representatives among the delegation of more than three dozen Florida company executives and other commercial leaders.
The bulk of Honduran imports to Florida is in the bananas the country ships to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. In the past, Port Manatee has imported melons and aggregate rock from Honduras.
Port officials intend to build relationships with shippers that sail to both Honduras and Florida, then acquire commitments for weekly or twice-monthly shipping service. Once those are in place, Appice said Port Manatee has a good chance to start importing fruits and vegetables, auto parts, textiles and even tomato stakes from Honduras. Exports could include manufactured goods and road building products.
Port Manatee currently trades with more than a half-dozen Central and South American nations. Its top trading partner in the region is Costa Rica, which accounted for over 26 percent of the port's total trade during the first 10 months of 2015, according to port data service World City Trade Numbers. The value of all trade through the port during that period was over $557 million.