Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Murray breezed through more than 20 PowerPoint slides during his annual State of the Port Address earlier this month.
But Murray says his “favorite slide in the whole presentation” is the first one he showed — the one that showed the record numbers for total revenue, operating revenue, cruise revenue, cargo revenue and cargo tonnage for the port budget year that ended Sept. 30.
“We had a great year, and we’re excited about the year before us” in 2019, Murray told the 300 community leaders at the event, held at Port Canaveral Cruise Terminal 1.
Murray is not going to be complacent about the fiscal 2018 numbers. Looking forward, Murray said, he’s excited about what’s ahead for Port Canaveral, the world’s second-busiest cruise port and a major driver in the Space Coast tourism economy.
“It’s an exciting time to be in Port Canaveral, and I can guarantee you it’s going to be more exciting in the next two years,” Murray said.
Here are 10 things to look forward to at Port Canaveral for 2019 and beyond:
New lineup of cruise ships in 2019
On Saturday, Nov. 10, the Norwegian Epic returned to Port Canaveral, marking the first of six major changes to the port’s ship lineup for the coming year.
• April 12: The Norwegian Sun returns to Port Canaveral. Murray revealed that the ship will be based here year-round, rather than seasonally. As was the case during 2018, some of the Norwegian Sun’s 2019 cruises will be to Cuba.
The Sun was built in 2001, and has a capacity of 1,936, based on double-occupancy of its cabins.
Bon voyage: Norwegian Sun cruise ship heads to Cuba
• May 6: Royal Caribbean shuffles its ship lineup at Port Canaveral, as the Harmony of the Seas replaces the Oasis of the Seas. The Harmony, which entered service in 2016, is a newer ship than the Oasis, which dates back to 2009.
The Harmony of the Seas has a double-occupancy capacity of 5,479 and a maximum capacity of 6,687, a similar size to Oasis of the Seas.
Additionally, the Mariner of the Seas replaces the Enchantment of the Seas. The Mariner is larger and newer than the Enchantment.
The Mariner, a “Voyager Class” ship which debuted in 2003, will return to Port Canaveral following a $100 million upgrade. It has a double-occupancy capacity of 3,344 and a maximum capacity of 4,000.
The Enchantment, which debuted in 1997, has a double-occupancy capacity of 2,252 and a maximum capacity of 2,730.
• April 17: The Carnival Elation replaces the Carnival Sunshine.
While the Elation is a smaller ship than the Sunshine, it will have more sailings per year from Port Canaveral (78 a year vs. 52 a year) because it will offer four- and five-night cruises, rather than the Sunshine’s six- to eight-night cruises. That means more passengers coming through Port Canaveral and more revenue for the port and local businesses that benefit from cruise passengers, such as hotels and restaurants.
The Elation, which went into service in 1998, has a double-occupancy capacity of 2,130 and a full capacity of 2,650.
The Sunshine has double-occupancy capacity of 3,002 and a full capacity of 3,758. The ship re-entered service in May 2013 after a $155 million refurbishment and a name change from the Carnival Destiny, a ship which dates back to 1996.
New terminal: Port Canaveral forges new deal with Carnival Cruise Lines
• Nov. 23, 2019: The Norwegian Breakaway replaces the Norwegian Epic.
The Breakaway was built in 2013, and has a passenger capacity of 3,963, based on double-occupancy of its cabins. In comparison, the Epic was build in 2010 and refurbished in 2015, and has a double-occupancy capacity of 4,100.
“We’ve got capacity” for an expanded cruise ship presence, Murray said. “We can handle the biggest ships in the world.”
Murray teased that “2020 is going to be even more exciting than 2019” for the port’s cruise business, but added that he couldn’t supply all the details just yet.
Disney expands its presence
While Disney Cruise Line has said nothing official, Murray said Disney in the future will base three cruise ships at Port Canaveral year-round, rather than two.
Disney’s two largest ships — the Dream and the Fantasy — are here now. Disney is adding three ships to its four-ship fleet in 2021, 2022 and 2023.
New cruises, destinations in 2020: Disney Cruise Line to go to Hawaii, New Orleans, Caribbean
Murray said one or more of those new ships will be based here, in combination with existing Disney ships, to give Disney a three-ship presence at Port Canaveral.
Murray said Disney’s expanded presence is a prime driver in Port Canaveral’s planned $48 million project to upgrade Cruise Terminals 8 and 10, with completion of that project scheduled for 2021.
Huge terminal for huge new ship
Construction will be ongoing in 2019 and 2020 on a $150 million Cruise Terminal 3 and 1,700-space parking garage complex on the port’s south side, in preparation for the arrival of what will be Carnival Cruise Line’s largest ship.
The terminal is the largest construction project in the port’s history, and is targeted for completion in May 2020.
Construction of Carnival’s still-unnamed “XL-class” ship got underway Thursday at a shipyard in Finland.
The 180,000-ton ship will have a capacity of 5,286 passengers, based on double-occupancy of its cabins, and a maximum capacity of 6,500. It is likely to have an onboard crew of about 2,000.
The ship will debut at Port Canaveral in fall 2020, which will mark the 30th year of Carnival running cruises from Port Canaveral.
Carnival is picking at least $50 million of the cost of the terminal, as part of a 25-year agreement with the port.
Preparing for LNG
The new Carnival XL ship will be the first cruise ship operating in North America to be fueled with liquefied natural gas.
Disney’s new ships also will be powered by LNG.
Port Canaveral won’t be building its own facilities to store LNG, but is working with the cruise lines, fuel suppliers, U.S. Coast Guard and other entities on coordinating how the fueling process will work.
“We just want to make sure that everybody does it safely and aboveboard,” Murray said.
Murray noted that, of the 120 cruise ships on order with deliveries from now through 2027, 30 will be LNG-powered.
Better customs processing
Murray said Port Canaveral is leading efforts to push for language in a pending Homeland Security bill to assure adequate U.S. Customs and Border Protection staffing at cruise ports.
“New agents are trained, they enter the workforce, and guess where they go? The Southwest border” of the United States, Murray said. “They’re not coming to the ports. We’ve got the three largest cruise ports in the world in the state of Florida. What happens if these passengers start getting upset because they’re not getting off the ship fast enough because customs isn’t clearing them?”
Murray said Port Canaveral is working Florida members of Congress, as well as representatives of other Florida ports, cruise lines and the Cruise Line International Association, to lobby for that language in the bill.
There is “a lot of support” for that bill, Murray said, “and it got started here.”
With the outdated former Cruise Terminal 3 now demolished to make way for the new Cruise Terminal 3, Port Canaveral has to improvise in handling cruise ships on busy days.
Next summer, there will be nine days when Port Canaveral will use North Cargo Berths 5 and 6 as berths for cruise ships making port-of-call stops.
Murray said Port Canaveral is working with its cruise and cargo customers to make the process “as seamless as possible.”
“We don’t want to be turning the cruise lines away” because there is no dock space for one of their ships, Murray said.
Economy driving cargo business
Murray said he expects cargo activity to remain stable at Port Canaveral in the coming year.
He said growth in cargo volume will be “hugely dependent” on the Central Florida economy, as two of the port’s main cargo components are aggregate material for road construction and lumber for home and business construction.
Lumber cargo tonnage was up 91 percent in the just ended budget year, while aggregate tonnage was up 29 percent.
Other big gainers in the past year included newsprint (up 68 percent), new autos (up 59 percent) and salt (up 20 percent).
New harbor crane
Port Canaveral has purchased a mobile harbor crane for $6.2 million to give it more flexibility in handling heavy cargo within the port — even including SpaceX Falcon 9 boosters.
Murray said the crane will arrive at Port Canaveral in the first quarter of 2019 and will be operational in the second quarter of 2019.
Reinvesting port revenue
Murray said the port is “reinvesting in our success” through its cruise terminal projects, as well as projects planed now through 2022:
• North Cargo Berth 4 ($34.4 million, with completion by 2022).
• North Cargo Berth 8 ($18.5 million, with completion in mid-2019).
• North side road improvements ($13.4 million, with completion in the summer of 2019).
Grants help pay the way
Murray said federal and state grants are helping fund many of the port’s projects.
For example, grants are funding:
• $8.3 million of the north side road project.
• $7.8 million of North Cargo Berth 8 project.
• $2.7 million of the harbor crane project.
“If we build it, it’s got to have a return on our investment,” Murray said. “We’re taking the money we earn, and we’re reinvesting it in projects … which will bring in bigger ships, bring in more income and keep this port growing.”
Source: Florida Today