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Port Manatee opens new emergency operations center
PALMETTO, FL Port Manatee’s new Emergency Operations Center is prepared to serve Southwest Florida in the event of a security-related incident.
The center saw its first official activity the week of Sept. 19 as it hosted the Lee County Sheriff’s Office waterborne strike team as part of unit training that also included a vessel familiarization and boarding exercise on World Direct Shipping’s Queen B, a containership that operates weekly between Port Manatee and Mexico.
“The Port Manatee Emergency Operations Center is ready to play an integral role in the security of Southwest Florida,” said David St. Pierre, the port’s director of seaport security. “The Lee County team’s exercise furnished an opportunity for specially trained officers to familiarize themselves with the port and with one of our large cargo ships so that the team is better prepared should a terrorist event or other security incident occur.”
Betsy Benac, chairwoman of the Manatee County Port Authority, added, “We are very pleased to have this facility now operational to benefit not only our port-related emergency activities, but to also provide for regional emergency response.”
The operations center, located in the Port Manatee Intermodal Building, was completed in early September thanks to federal port security grant funding. The center is configured with 50 desks and extensive communications networks to facilitate multiagency response.
The waterborne strike team includes members of the Fort Myers-based Lee County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Unit, or SOU, and is part of the Florida Regional Domestic Security Task Force Region 6, also based in Fort Myers.
Located “Where Tampa Bay Meets the Gulf of Mexico,” Port Manatee is the closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the expanded Panama Canal and Cuba’s Port of Mariel, 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.