Port Manatee-based World Direct Shipping has extended its agreement with the Central-Southwest Florida seaport and added a third vessel to its rapidly growing weekly services across the Gulf of Mexico.
The extension could bring total value of the WDS contract through 2026 to more than $8 million, inclusive of dockage, wharfage and related charges, Port Manatee officials said today [Tuesday, Jan. 14].
“Port Manatee is delighted to expand its mutually beneficial relationship with World Direct Shipping,” said Carlos Buqueras, Port Manatee’s executive director. “This latest agreement provides assurances that support sustained investments by both the port and WDS.”
Since initiating one weekly service to Port Manatee from the southern Veracruz port of Coatzacoalcos with a single vessel in late 2014, World Direct Shipping has extended its offerings to encompass Tuxpan, the closest commercial port to Mexico City, as well as Tampico, in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.
World Direct Shipping’s cargo volume rose 90 percent in 2019 from 2018, with total throughput reaching nearly 50,000 twenty-foot-equivalent container units, or TEUs, according to Carlos Diaz, the company’s director.
“World Direct Shipping has enjoyed a solid, trusted partnership with Port Manatee from the beginning,” Diaz said. “As our operations have expanded, the port has worked diligently to keep pace with our needs.”
The latest vessel to enter WDS service is the 430-foot-long M/V Queen B II, which made its first arrival at Port Manatee on Jan. 10, bringing 231 high-cube, 40-foot-long empty refrigerated containers from China. The containers are enhancing World Direct Shipping’s equipment fleet.
The M/V Queen B II joins a second similar WDS-owned containership, the M/V Queen B, as well as the chartered 456-foot-long AS Laeticia, in World Direct Shipping’s cross-Gulf sailings. The M/V Queen B and M/V Queen B II are to be dedicated to the weekly services from Coatzacoalcos and Tampico, while the slightly larger AS Laeticia is being deployed on Tuxpan sailings.
World Direct Shipping’s three-day transit times offer the fastest short-sea connection between Mexico and the U.S. Southeast, Northeast and Midwest for refrigerated produce and other cargos, according to Diaz.
The commodity mix of WDS imports into Port Manatee is continuing to extend beyond perishable fruits, vegetables and juices to also include sugar, wood products and such finished goods as appliances. Exports to Mexico are led by paper products.
Priscilla Whisenant Trace, chairwoman of the Manatee County Port Authority, said she is encouraged by the extension of the productive partnership between Port Manatee and World Direct Shipping. “Both Port Manatee and WDS can confidently continue to chart shared growth for years to come, Whisenant Trace said. “We are thrilled to have one of the world’s most dynamic container lines headquartered right here at Port Manatee, and we all look forward to many more years of collective successes, to the benefit of international trade and the socioeconomic wellbeing of our community.”
Located “Where Tampa Bay Meets the Gulf of Mexico,” Port Manatee is the closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the expanded Panama Canal, with 10 40-foot-draft berths serving container, bulk, breakbulk, heavylift, project and general cargo customers. The self-sustaining port generates more than $2.3 billion in annual economic impact for the local community, while providing for more than 24,000 direct and indirect jobs, all without benefit of local property tax support.