- By Paul Scott Abbott, AJOT
The entry of Port Manatee into containerized cargo shipping is now official, and speakers at a Jan. 22 dedication ceremony for the Tampa Bay port’s new mobile container crane share hopes the 257-foot-tall crane is an indication of even bigger things to come.
Speaking before more than 100 gathered dignitaries in the shadow of the Gottwald 6407 crane, John Paul Woodley Jr., assistant secretary of the US Army for civil works, called Port Manatee “one of America’s most promising ports and certainly a jewel for Florida.”
Woodley, who is the senior civilian in charge of the US Army Corps of Engineers, commended Port Manatee Executive Director David L. McDonald, cited the port’s excellent geographic location and pledged to work hard to ensure that port channel depths keep pace with projected growth in commerce.
The $3.9 million crane, which actually began operation a month before the dedication event, was brought to the port through a Port Manatee partnership with Logistec Corp. (which provides stevedoring services for major port tenant Del Monte Fresh Produce Co.) and District 1 of the Florida Department of Transportation.
Madeleine Paquin, president and chief executive officer of Montreal-based Logistec, said Del Monte’s success is tied to Logistec’s ability to serve the firm with increased container-moving capability.
“This workhorse crane, combined with talented labor, will do this for us,” Paquin said. She called the crane “confirmation of our commitment to invest in Port Manatee.”
The crane was a key factor in Del Monte’s renewal of its Port Manatee contract for another five years.
FDOT District 1 Secretary Stanley M. Cann said that, when he first visited Port Manatee a couple years ago, he was “impressed with just the potential of this port, the location and the room to grow.”
Cann, who noted that environmental studies are proceeding for alignment of a dedicated highway link between Port Manatee and Interstate 75, said he now believes, “The port is really fixing to explode, in my opinion.”
Joe McClash, chairman of the Manatee County Port Authority, looked up at the new piece of equipment and said, “It truly is an economic engine. It puts Port Manatee into the 21st century.”
McDonald, the port’s executive director, described the crane as “something new and wonderful for Port Manatee and each of our users and shippers.”
The German-made unit is the first Gottwald 6407 crane to be delivered to a US port, according to Giuseppe Di Lisa, worldwide sales director for Gottwald Port Technology, who said he believes the presence of the crane, as well as other expansion efforts at Port Manatee, times well with the expansion of the Panama Canal. Port Manatee, at the entrance to Tampa Bay off the Gulf of Mexico, is being billed as the closest US deepwater seaport to the canal.
At the conclusion of the dedication event, Joseph W. Gontarski, a former Port of Tampa port director who joined the Port Manatee staff as director of marketing and trade development in 1986 and continues to serve as special assistant to McDonald, was surprised as the bright orange unit rotated to display the name “Big Joe” and a illustration of Gontarski’s face emblazoned on its back – signifying that the crane has been named in his honor.