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Miami – In good shape for ‘post panamax’ future

Miami is the venue for the CSA’s 13th Annual Shipping Executives’ Conference from 11 to 14 May. So how is PortMiami shaping up to the challenges of today’s shipping world? Through a sustained program of investment in new infrastructure and facilities, the Florida port has underlined its claim to be both the ‘Cruise Capital of the World’ and the ‘Cargo Gate Gateway of the Americas’.

In a shipping and trading context, the importance of Miami to the Caribbean region can hardly be overstated. Not only is PortMiami the number one hub for Caribbean cruising, but the port is a vital gateway for containers, refrigerated containers and other cargo traffic en route between the Caribbean and the USA. Over half of the port’s trade is with the Caribbean and Latin America.


Now, PortMiami is set to move up a gear with the opening of the expanded Panama Canal, scheduled for April 2015. Some $2 billion is being invested in port and infrastructure improvements to allow PortMiami to handle the new generation of mega ships and the increased cargo traffic they are likely to bring.

At the same time, the construction program and the resulting facilities are generating thousands of new jobs in Florida, while PortMiami is looking to contribute some $30 billion to the local and state economies in 2014.


New brands and ships in busy cruise sector

The ‘Cruise Capital of the World’ has seen a major expansion in its cruise sector over the past two years, with new lines using the Florida port and in some cases introducing brand-new vessels. 

The 2014 cruise season at PortMiami features yet another new cruise brand, MSC Cruises, which joins the port’s already impressive roster of modern and innovative cruise lines.

MSC Cruises, an elegant Mediterranean brand, is sailing one of its newest vessels, the ‘MSC Divina’, on itineraries that include the Caribbean and Latin America. The ‘MSC Divina’ will homeport at PortMiami all year round.

In February the port welcomed Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, the ‘Norwegian Getaway’, which will also use Miami as its year-round home port. The ‘Norwegian Getaway’ is deployed on itineraries to The Bahamas and the Caribbean.

Other ships new to the PortMiami fleet this year include Carnival Cruise Lines’ ‘Carnival Conquest’ and ‘Carnival Ecstasy’ and Costa Cruises’ ‘Costa Luminosa’.

In addition, Resorts World Bimini is now offering a daily service between PortMiami and Bimini in The Bahamas.
Over 4 million cruise passengers used PortMiami in 2013.


$2bn program to make port ‘big ship ready’

PortMiami is in the middle of a huge capital improvement program to make the port ‘big ship ready’.

The driver, of course, is the opening of the expanded Panama Canal, now scheduled for April 2015, which is expected to bring much larger containerships and other cargo vessels to the Caribbean region.

PortMiami is carrying out infrastructure improvements worth more than $2 billion in order to be ready for the new class of mega ships that will begin transiting the canal in 2015. These major investments will allow PortMiami to take advantage of its status as the closest major US East Coast port to the expanded canal.

Key projects include a program to deepen the harbor to minus 50 ft (minus 15.24 meters); restoration and expansion of the port’s on-dock rail links; and a new tunnel link to ease the flow of passenger and truck traffic to and from the national highway system.


PortMiami has also invested $39 million in four additional super post panamax cranes. With these installed, the port now has 13 cranes, six of which are super post panamax. Meanwhile, seven wharves are undergoing a $65 million strengthening program that includes new bollards, fenders and water stations. This is due for completion in summer 2014.

These investments will help PortMiami to grow as a logistics hub and confirm its status as ‘Cargo Gateway of the Americas’.


On-dock rail links

A $46.9 million program to restore and improve the port’s rail freight connections is almost complete.

In Phase 1, completed in October 2013, the port’s on-dock rail link was restored following hurricane damage back in 2005. Phase 2 is due for completion in summer 2014.

The program is being carried out by PortMiami in partnership with the Florida East Coast Railway, the US Department of Transportation and the State of Florida. It links the port with the Hialeah intermodal rail yard and the national rail network.

This in turn will expedite the movement of goods throughout Florida and into the continental USA, allowing containerized cargo to reach 70 per cent of the US population in one to four days.


Cruise hub of choice

Terminal-EPortMiami is home to some of the world’s leading cruise lines: Aida Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Resorts World Bimini and Royal Caribbean International.

With over a dozen cruise brands berthing more than 30 ships, PortMiami is the departure hub of choice for cruises to The Bahamas, the Caribbean, Mexico and beyond.


Harbor deepening

PortMiami will be the only US East Coast port south of Norfolk Virginia to offer a depth of minus 50 ft when the expanded Panama Canal opens in 2015.

A $220 million dredging program, due for completion in summer 2015, will allow the port to accommodate the new class of mega ships with a cargo capacity of over 10,000 teu.

Miami is looking to benefit from increased trade with Asia as the emphasis shifts from West Coast to East Coast ports.


Road tunnel project

PortTunnel-ConstructionFreight vehicles – and cruise passengers – now have quicker and easier access to the port area thanks to a new tunnel link.

Construction of the new road tunnel cost $915 million and is due for completion in spring 2014.

As well as providing a direct link with the interstate highway system, the new tunnel will ease congestion in downtown Miami and reduce vehicle idle time and emissions.