The Manatee County Port Authority approved a $2.1 million bid to launch phase one of Port Manatee’s long-awaited Berth 12 dredging project.

The new 1,584-fool-long berth is designed to accommodate containerized shipping and is expected to be operational by early-2010. Berth 12 completes a nearly $150 million port expansion project started in 1999.

Phase one of the dredging project creates permanent underground five-foot diameter tunnel-features providing safe access for hydraulic pipelines used to deliver dredge material to a certified uplands spoil disposal site. The permanent features will be constructed under CSX Railroad’s mainline at Port Manatee’s front gate and under US 41.

The low bidder was Sarasota-based Spectrum Underground, Inc., shaving $1.1 million from preliminary engineering estimates. This critical first step allows for the swift completion of the main dredging project, with the base bid expected to be awarded by early fall 2009.

“This opens the door to advance Port Manatee’s future in containerized shipping,” said David L. McDonald PPM®, the port’s executive director. “We’re pleased that a local vendor won the bid.”

In May, McDonald signed a strategic alliance with the Panama Canal Authority to share information and participate in mutually beneficial marketing efforts between the two organizations. The Panama Canal is undergoing a massive $5.25 billion expansion, expected to be complete in 2014. Port Manatee is the closest US deepwater seaport to the canal and is expected to benefit greatly from its expansion.