Port Manatee is serving as a launching point for efforts to help restore communications in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
A vessel with vehicles, equipment, relief goods and personnel from Sarasota, Florida-based USA Groups is anticipated to arrive in San Juan on Thursday [Oct. 5] after being loaded Monday [Oct. 2] at Port Manatee.
Seacor Marine LLC's U.S.-flagged Liam J. McCall, a newly built aluminum fast support vessel, left Port Manatee carrying equipment including 10 work trucks, two generators and two containers of relief goods, as well as a dozen construction, maintenance and security workers.
USA Groups looks to use the equipment and personnel in restoration of cellular communications in Puerto Rico, which lost more than 80 percent of its cell tower capabilities due to Maria.
"As a communications contractor based in Florida, we are accustomed and prepared to respond to the destruction caused by hurricanes," said Ken Goff, chief operating officer of USA Groups. "What makes this situation unique is the fact we are responding to an island more than 1,000 nautical miles away. To say the logistics of pulling this off is a challenge is definitely an understatement.
"When we contacted Port Manatee and asked for assistance, the response was immediate and they advised us throughout the entire process," Goff added. "Without them, and access to their team of support professionals, there would be no way we could have made this happen as efficiently and timely as it has."
This is the first of three planned similar shipments by USA Groups.
"We welcome the opportunity to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria and are happy to assist USA Groups in securing logistics for the voyage," said Carlos Buqueras, Port Manatee's executive director.
Vanessa Baugh, chairwoman of the Manatee County Port Authority, commented, "With all the damage to vital communications equipment in Puerto Rico, the Manatee County Port Authority is proud to play a part in rushing support teams to Puerto Rico to restore communications."
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 port generates more than $2.3 billion in annual economic impact for the local community, while supporting more than 24,000 jobs, without levying ad-valorem taxes.
PHOTO: A work truck to be used to help restore communications in hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico is loaded onto a vessel at Port Manatee.