The Manatee County Port Authority approved the purchase of Port Manatee’s first mobile harbor container crane in special session.

The new equipment opens the door to new containerized service, which port officials expect to create new jobs and trading opportunities for local businesses. The purchase comes at a critical time as ports across the country prepare for anticipated increased shipping traffic associated with the expansion of the Panama Canal.

‘As the closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the Panama Canal it’s obvious that Port Manatee stands to benefit greatly from the canal’s expansion,’ said MCPA Chairman Joe McClash. ‘The eminent completion of Berth 12 further enhances the port’s readiness to capitalize on this new opportunity.’

The crane purchase is the result of a public private partnership between the MCPA and Logistec USA, Inc. Under the terms of the acquisition and operation agreement, Logistec will purchase a $3.9 million Gottwald crane and deliver it to the port. Once the crane is certified operational, the Manatee County Port Authority has 90 days to pay Logistec half of the total purchase price. The port’s half comes from state transportation grants.

A unique feature of the lease/purchase agreement guarantees positive income for the port over all fixed costs during the 15-year life of the partnership, by leasing the crane back to Logistec for more than the authority’s monthly installment.

“Our confidence in this project is a transparent investment in Port Manatee’s future as much as it is in a crane,” said Madeleine Paquin, president and CEO of Logistec Corporation. “This demonstrates our intention to be part of the port’s success and for serving our customers for many years to come.”

The agreement also includes a profit-sharing plan earning additional revenue for Port Manatee based on the crane’s monthly hours of operation.

The crane, which is expected to be operational before the start of the 2007 melon season in November, will be titled to the authority and capable of working at multiple berth locations.