Bottom left: Jorge Mello and bottom right: Carlos Buqueras
with Manatee Board of County Commissioners / MCPA
BRADENTON – Port Manatee and Docas do Rio de Janeiro (the Rio de Janeiro Port Authority) have become International Sister Seaports, establishing new opportunities for foreign trade between the U.S. and Brazil and marking the first time a Florida Gulf Coast seaport has entered into such an agreement.
Jorge Luiz de Mello, president-director of the Rio de Janeiro Port Authority, signed the agreement in Manatee County on Tuesday at a Manatee County Port Authority (MCPA) meeting that was held during a regular meeting of the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners.
Carol Whitmore, chairman of the MCPA, and Carlos Buqueras, Executive Director of Port Manatee, signed on behalf of Port Manatee.
Buqueras and Mello signed the agreement on May 22 at a preliminary signing ceremony in Brasilia – the capital of Brazil – in witness of the Minister of Brazilian Seaports Leonidas Cristino. That meeting also included the minister’s port management and infrastructure secretary, Fernando Victor Castanheira de Carvalho, and his assessor international, Jose Newton Barbosa Gama.
The International Sister Seaports Agreement will help establish regular shipping lines between Port Manatee and Brazilian seaports including the Rio de Janeiro Port Authority and will allow for the free and uninhibited exchange of information related to the two ports’ cargo industries, statistics, planned infrastructure developments, marketing and research. The agreement will also establish goodwill ambassadors to exchange educational visits between the ports and help implement the intent of the agreement.
Brazil is Florida’s largest trade partner, currently trading $19 billion annually, which is twice as much as their second largest: Columbia. Port Manatee is a principal importer in the Southeastern U.S. of Brazilian orange juice and lumber. Both, Mello and Buqueras are looking to eventually take their new agreement trade up to $100 billion annually by attracting other shipping lines, "There is unlimited potential to go beyond other Florida ports." Buqueras said.
Orlando accounts for much of the Brazilian trade, and Port Manatee is the most convenient Port for exchanges to and from Brazil, for Orlando as well as other Central and Gulf Coast Florida markets.
“This agreement is like Olympic gold for Florida’s Gulf Coast,” Buqueras said in reference to the 2016 Summer Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro. “And it’s a qualifying event for Port Manatee.”
Buqueras later said, “We will continue to pursue international trade opportunities that positively impact the local economy and increase jobs, and work with others to do the same.” adding, "The opportunities are up to the private companies."
The signing ceremony commenced at 11 a.m. Tuesday, in the commission chambers on the first floor of the Manatee County government administration building located at 1112 Manatee Avenue West, Bradenton, and was followed by a brief reception.
Port Manatee is located at the entrance to Tampa Bay and is among Florida’s largest deepwater seaports. For more information about Port Manatee, visit www.portmanatee.com.