Containers are offloaded from Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc.’s Del Monte Spirit as the energy-efficient vessel makes its Jan. 9 inaugural call at Port Manatee.

PALMETTO, Florida – Port Manatee is now receiving imports of Central American fruit via the newest energy-efficient refrigerated containerships of longtime port tenant Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc.

 “These new-generation vessels bring significant sustainability and operational advances while heralding the next era in Port Manatee’s long-term partnership with one of North America’s leading marketers and distributors of fresh produce,” Reggie Bellamy, chairman of the Manatee County Port Authority, said in welcoming the Saturday [Jan. 9] inaugural call of the Del Monte Spirit at Port Manatee.

 Fresh Del Monte Produce, which has been importing fruit into Port Manatee since 1989, is transitioning to deployment of the eco-friendly containerships in place on noncontainerized vessels to bring burgeoning volumes of bananas, pineapples and avocados to its Southeast distribution center at Manatee County’s rapidly growing container hub.

The Del Monte Spirit, like five sibling vessels, has a full cargo capacity of 1,276 twenty-foot-equivalent container units, or TEUs, with 634 plugs for 40-foot-long high-cube refrigerated containers, or reefers.

The new ships help fulfill a company commitment to dramatically reduce vessel fuel consumption and emissions, according to Helmuth Lutty, senior vice president of shipping operations at Coral Gables, Florida-based Fresh Del Monte Produce.

“As one of the world’s leading producers, marketers and distributors of fresh fruits and vegetables, we have set a very high bar for all the reefer containers and ships in our fleet,” Lutty said. “These six new vessels set the bar even higher, and allow us to deliver the high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables we are known for while meeting our sustainability goals.”

The vessels feature fuel-efficient hull design, emissions-reducing scrubber systems, connections to operate on shore power when at berth, and the latest in preventive maintenance technologies.

Lutty was among those celebrating the Jan. 9 call of the Del Monte Spirit. In addition to Bellamy, those participating in an inaugural call ceremony and tours of the vessel included Denise Tuck, Fresh Del Monte Produce’s Port Manatee-based port manager; Capt. Roman Federov, the ship’s master; Arthur Savage, president of ship agency A.R. Savage & Son; and Carlos Buqueras, executive director of Port Manatee.

“The new Del Monte vessels represent the latest development in the advancement of Port Manatee as Central and Southwest Florida’s preferred gateway for global commerce,” Buqueras said. “Fruits arriving on these ships further add to the record volumes of containerized cargo crossing Port Manatee docks and underscore the importance of key infrastructure enhancements.”

An all-time-high 88,466 TEUs of containerized cargo crossed Port Manatee docks in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2020, up 54.6 percent from the preceding 12-month period and 2.3 times the fiscal 2018 volume. Meanwhile, the $8.3 million project to nearly double the size of Port Manatee’s 10-acre dockside container yard is moving toward mid-2021 completion.

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 $3.9 billion in annual economic impacts while providing for more than 27,000 direct and indirect jobs, all without benefit of local property tax support.

Touring the Del Monte Spirit upon its Jan. 9 inaugural call at Port Manatee are, from left, Capt. Roman Federov, the ship’s master; Reggie Bellamy, chairman of the Manatee County Port Authority; Helmuth Lutty, senior vice president of shipping operations for Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc.; and Denise Tuck, Fresh Del Monte Produce’s Port Manatee-based port manager.

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