'Feed the economy': SeaPort Manatee becomes fastest growing container port in Florida

SeaPort Manatee has made a name for itself as the fastest growing container port in the state of Florida. It's become the Gulf Coast gateway to trade, particularly from Mexico. 

As the closest port to the Panama Canal, cargo containers bring in fresh fruits and vegetables, appliances and lumber and fuel. In 2021, SeaPort Manatee brought in a record 10.5 million tons of cargo. 

Charles Tillotson, the chief commercial officer for SeaPort Manatee, said they're on track to surpass that number in 2022. The port has seen a surge of more than 32% in container cargo tonnage, compared to the same period last year. That's 660,847 tons of container cargo. 

Some supplies stay locally, while the rest is transported across the state of Florida or throughout the Southeast corridor.

"We do benefit from the close proximity where we can feed the supply chains and the manufacturing centers here faster," said Tillotson. 

Records also set by SeaPort Manatee include dry bulk tonnage of 1,230,124 up 13%, liquid bulk tonnage of 3,122,510 up 3.8% and break bulk tonnage like lumber, plywood and other forest products of 351,878 up by 34.4%

"A lot of this acreage is new. We added an additional eight acres just within the last six months and as you can look around and see the space is being filled as quickly as we can expand it," said Tillotson.

SeaPort Manatee's container terminal is currently made up of 18 acres. Over the next 18 months, they said they'll expand to 25 acres. As that happens, business and supplies will continue to be brought to the area. 

"We are an economic driver here for jobs here in Manatee County. We continue to feed the economy," said Tillotson.