Pensacola has joined Port Manatee as the second Florida port call on World Direct Shipping’s weekly niche container service between the US Gulf and Coatzacoalcos, Mexico.
The new container service will be Pensacola’s first. World Direct CEO Carlos Diaz said the port near the tip of Florida’s panhandle will complement the carrier’s current calls at Port Manatee, near the mouth of Tampa Bay. Port Manatee is the 10th-largest port for seaborne containerized imports from Mexico, with 8,000 TEU and a market share of 4.4 percent in 2017, according to PIERS, a sister product of JOC.com within IHS Markit.
World Direct expects to make its first call at Pensacola on Thursday, and will operate on a rotation of Port Manatee, Pensacola, and Coatzacoalcos. Diaz said World Direct expects soon to add a second Mexican port. US Gulf Coast imports from Mexico rose 11.2 percent year over year last year to 59,380 TEU as Manatee's import traffic from Mexico rose 32.8 percent. Total imports from Mexico rose 19.2 percent to 180,786 TEU.
Shipments through Pensacola are expected to be dominated by exports including wood and paper but also will include imports that World Direct now delivers to the region from Port Manatee by truck, he said.
“We feel that Pensacola is strategically located,” Diaz said. “This will provide us with better access to the southeast market, including Atlanta.”
Seaborne containerized exports to Mexico rose 3.2 percent to 45,194 TEU through November, according to PIERS. That growth was led by a 12 percent increase in boilers and heating equipment to 2,437 TEU, as shipments of wood pulp and paper including waste fell 8.4 percent to 16,849 TEU.
Palmetto, Florida-based World Direct operates two vessels. The carrier owns the Queen B, a 435-foot vessel with a 657 TEU capacity, and charters a similar-sized vessel. The chartered vessel will be replaced when World Direct takes delivery of a purchased, second vessel in the fourth quarter of this year.
The new call was big news in Pensacola, which handles a variety of breakbulk and bulk cargoes. Port director Amy Miller said the port is “incredibly excited” by the new service, which will be handled by Pate Stevedore.
“Breaking into the container markets is a big deal for a smaller port like Pensacola,” Miller said. “While large-scale container operations may be out of reach for us, we’ve always known that there were smaller, niche container markets out there that made sense.”