Port Manatee entered the containerization era Dec. 19th when its brand new $3.9 million Gottwald mobile harbor container crane made its first pick from a Fresh Del Monte Produce ship.

‘We’ve been waiting a longtime for this moment and we owe so much to so many,’ said David L. McDonald PPM, executive director of Port Manatee, and architect of the landmark deal that delivered the monster machine to the port along with partners Logistec USA and the Florida Department of Transportation, District 1.

‘This crane represents the future of Port Manatee,’ said Manatee County Port Authority Chairman Joe McClash. ‘Its arrival puts the port in a position to attract new containerized service, which could dramatically increase port revenues and provide for the economic vitality of Manatee County.’

The crane weighs more than 460 tons. It can lift 100 tons, which is the equivalent of more than two Boeing 737 jet airplanes.

The port currently handles a modest number of containers, but it’s expecting to rapidly ramp-up its numbers in the wake of the crane’s first pick. Officials expect to eventually move up to 600,000 containers a year ‘creating jobs and trading opportunities for Manatee County.

The arrival of the crane couldn’t have come at a better time. Del Monte’s five-year port contract is up for renewal. Delivering the crane was a Del Monte prerequisite to renew the agreement for an additional five-years.

‘The new crane gives us more flexibility in what we do and what we load and how we work with containers,’ said Brian Giuliani, Port Manatee port manager for Del Monte.

The crane was purchased through a public-private partnership with Logistec USA and the Florida Department of Transportation, District 1.

The Gottwald HMK 6407 crane is the first of its kind to be delivered in the United States.

Originally expected to take up to five weeks to assemble, the crane was certified operational in three weeks and successfully completed its first container pick just five days later. Port officials are planning an official dedication for the crane Jan. 22nd.