$160 million in work at Port of Miami sets stage for cruise, shipping future
By Paola Iuspa
Port of Miami officials plan to spend $160 million in 2003 to continue infrastructure upgrades and enhance their competitive edge.
While most of the major construction began last year and will soon result in two new parking garages for $20 million and a cruise wharf expansion for $4 million, there is still a lot to do, said Trenae Floyd, the port's spokeswoman.
The 2003 expansion will consist of building two cruise terminals for $60 million, creating a new roadway system for $15 million, buying two cargo gantry cranes for $10 million, investing $35 million in cargo terminal and utility improvements and dredging the port's South Channel for $40 million.
While some work has already been completed, the seaport capital improvement project will total $247.3 million when complete - targeted for December 2004, Ms. Floyd said.
Some upgrades also will address security requirements called for in the Maritime Transportation Security Act signed into law in November by President Bush.
To strengthen security in the "international borders at America's seaports, the act authorized more security officers, screening equipment and the development of important security infrastructure at America's seaports," according to the web site of Sen. Fritz Hollings of South Carolina, who authored the bill.
The American Association of Port Authorities, representing more than 150 public port authorities in the US, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, considers the Port of Miami's expansion well-planned.
"The Port of Miami is doing an excellent job in keeping up pace with the passengers demand and the industry growth," said Lori Baer, the trade association's director of communications.
She said Miami's seaport seems to be effectively putting security in place needed to make passengers, port employees and cargo people safe.
She also lauded port officials for trying to boost business by becoming a port of call beginning in April to Norwegian Cruise Lines' Dawn cruise ship. The vessel will have weekly sailings from New York with a Florida and Caribbean itinerary, Ms. Floyd said.
"The ship will visit Miami mid-week and be Miami's first port-of-call vessel," she said.
Until April, Dawn will sail from Miami. While the port is home to Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean International, it is not an active port of call, which could help maximize the use of the terminals when cruise ships are at sea.
"Becoming a port of call is a progressive thing to do," Ms. Baer said. "In this case, Miami becomes a destination. Passengers get out of the ship for few hours and go to Miami Beach, malls and restaurants. They get to see the city and decide if they would like to come back for vacation."
In year 2002, Miami had 18 home-ported cruise vessels with more than 3.6 million passengers, a new one-year record, Ms. Floyd said.
The port recently welcomed four new cruise ships: Brilliance of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas both of Royal Caribbean, Norwegian's Dawn and Celebrity's Mercury.
All these ships except the Mercury are newly built, she said.
The Port of Miami is expected to pass another milestone March 8 with the berthing of eight cruise vessels and about 18,880 boarding passengers in one day.
Miami is the homeport to three of Royal Caribbean's four Voyager Class vessels: Voyager of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas. Each weighs 142,000 tons and has a passenger capacity of 3,100.
"This is key," Ms. Floyd said, "because we are the only port to berth two of these vessels simultaneously every Saturday year-round. The third is in port on Sundays."
While some cruise lines are discovering new ports to call home, such as New Orleans, Houston, Mobile, AL, and Gulfport, MS., Miami is not considered to be losing ground to them, Ms. Baer said.
"The cruise ship industry is expanding," she said. "So cruise lines are looking to add new homeports for new vessels, not to shift existing ships around."