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Port Manatee car terminal development

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Author(s): George Isiminger, Senior Director of planning, engineering and environmental affairs, Port Manatee

Port Manatee is one of Florida’s largest and fastest growing seaports handling a variety of bulk, breakbulk, containerised and heavylift project cargos. Located on South Tampa Bay, Port Manatee is regarded as the closest US deepwater port to the expanding Panama Canal and offers superior intermodal connectivity, competitive rates and a prime location. In 2013 Port Manatee signed a memorandum of understanding with the Pasha Group for the development and marketing of a full service roll-on/roll-off terminal and vehicle processing facility. The partnership with Pasha became possible due to the ports location, closest Florida port to the major car export ports in Mexico, and the ability to have operations up and running within 30 days. Originally the Manatee County Port Authority decided on the construction of multi-use intermodal terminal. The development into an auto terminal came later, and it didn’t happen overnight. Planning for the new dredging and berth construction that would become the terminal began in the late 1990s. The concept involved bigger channel turn wideners to allow larger vessels to make the turn into the port’s access channel, a  new bigger turning basin to allow largerships to turn around before approaching or after departing a berth, as well as a new south channel with two new berths. None of the construction could proceed without permits – state Environmental Resource Permits (ERP) from Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and federal Individual Permits from the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The USACE process involves input from multiple federal agencies and other interested parties. Both processes involve public comments before approval. In order to obtain the permits, the project was first required to be designed to avoid and minimise impacts to the environment as much as possible. Unavoidable impacts required mitigation and had to meet certain criteria. During this process Port Manatee designed the 174,000 square foot Warehouse 11 at the request of its tenant Gearbulk. At this time the warehouse was mainly used by Gearbulk to store lumber. Due to the economic decline the demand for lumber used in new home construction was reduced and Gearbulk stopped using the facility.

Environmental mitigation

It was necessary to achieve…

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