Will Port Manatee Ease Supply Chain Woes?

Todays News

With a supply line crisis looming, state officials are openly wooing shippers to send goods from the East into Florida ports. With Port Manatee still the closest U.S. deepwater port to the Panama Canal, could that mean a boon to local logistics?

Port Manatee Executive Director Carlos Buqueras said that’s up to shippers themselves. But he said the Palmetto port can handle any demand that comes. “It’s just common sense to take the Panama Canal and drop off containers on this side of the country,” he said.

The port executive first noted that while the current supply chain issue has received significant attention thanks to the impact of COVID-19, this is hardly the first time West Coast ports faced trouble handling shipping. “In a few instances in the past, container ships with holiday gifts piled up on the West Coast, in California ports in particular,” he said.

The issue is most of the containers coming off shipping liners in California end up on rail lines spanning across the United States. Basically, it’s more financially sensible in logistics to go from China to Long Beach, then ride the rails to the East Coast. But when there’s backup out west, Buqueras said it makes sense to consider shipping by boat directly to the East Coast, especially with the Panama Canal now letting larger container vessels through.

In Port Manatee, Buqueras said capacity has already been demonstrated to welcome large ships from the Far East, though he said much of the traffic so far has not been containerized, which is the method of choice for electronic products. The port has welcomed Chinese and Vietnamese lumber and other raw materials.

“In this particular case, the pandemic has not affected Port Manatee,” he said. “We’re also handling more containers than in previous years. We’ve seen in essence more cargo. The effect on Manatee has been almost contrary to what was expected. Our containers are up from 80,000 to 143,000, over a 50% increase.”

It all puts the port in a place to pitch itself as a destination to send goods from around the world. It just depends now whether those sending containers out from China can be convinced to chart a course to Florida rather than California if they want to make sure fancy goods make it onto shelves by Black Friday and Christmas this year.

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