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A Tampa-area shipping company will begin weekly containerized cargo service between the Port of Pensacola and the the Mexican port of Coatzacoalcos, port officials said Friday.

World Direct Shipping is based in Palmetto, Fla. near Port Manatee, located on the southern shores of Tampa Bay. The company currently operates weekly cargo service between Port Manatee and both Coatzacoalcos and Tuxpan in Mexico.

The first sailing from Coatzacoalcos is scheduled to arrive in Pensacola on Feb. 1, said Port Director Amy Miller.

The M/V Queen B will carry cargo between Pensacola and Mexican ports. (Port of Manatee/Special to The Pulse)

“We are incredibly excited about this new service,” said Miller. “Breaking into the container markets is a big deal for a smaller port like Pensacola. 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.”

The new service marks the first time the Port of Pensacola has seen regular containerized cargo shipments. While the majority of oceanic shipping uses standarized intermodal containers — easily used across ship, rail, and truck transport — the landlocked Port of Pensacola lacks the container cranes and yard space necessary to handle high volumes of modern container traffic.

World Direct’s ships include their own cranes for unloading and loading cargo, Miller said, and stevedores will use mobile cranes and forklifts to stage containers and transfer them to truck and/or rail.

The company plans to expand the Pensacola-Mexico cargo service to a second Mexican port shortly, a move that both company and port officials say should provide more opportunities for exports through the Port of Pensacola from the southeast U.S. market.

“We are excited about our addition of Pensacola,” said World Direct Shipping director Carlos Diaz. “With Pensacola and Port Manatee, World Direct Shipping enhances its service network between Mexico and the southeast United States. Pensacola will be a great complement to our current Port Manatee operations. Most importantly, we will be providing shippers between the U.S. and Mexico additional flexibility in meeting their shipping needs with our proven track record of speed, reliability and personalized care to customers. It’s exciting to have this opportunity to open another ocean route between Florida and Mexico.”

The cargo service will be supported by two vessels, including the 435 ft. long M/V Queen B, which owned and operated by World Direct Shipping. A second similarly-sized but chartered vessel will be included in the rotation until World Direct Shipping takes delivery of their second owned vessel in the fourth quarter of 2018.

“Since first becoming acquainted with World Direct Shipping nearly a year ago, port staff, our local stevedoring company Pate Stevedores, and the great folks at World Direct Shipping have worked hard to put together a quality service that we’re confident will grow and thrive here,” Miller said.

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