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Port Canaveral

Cruise is still king...but cargo gets new facilities

By Edward Lundquist*

While Port Canaveral has a growing cargo and container business, it is perhaps best known as a cruise port – the second-busiest in the world, as measured by passengers, after Miami.

The cruise business represents 80 per cent of Port Canaveral’s revenue.

The port is also developing an auto import and export facility to process and customize vehicles for end-users before shipment overseas. “The auto business is at peak capacity at Jacksonville and Brunswick. We’d like to help out with that business,” said John Murray, chief executive of Port Canaveral. “We’ve opened a 20 acre container terminal and have 10 acres under development, with 45 more acres available.”

Canaveral Cargo Terminal, Port Canaveral’s first dedicated container facility, opened in 2015. It is the first US venture for Gulftainer, the world’s largest privately owned terminal operator. To complement the port’s investment in berths and ship-to-shore cranes, GT USA will invest US$ 100 million in infrastructure, equipment and staffing.

Port Canaveral

In January this year StreamLines NV, part of the Seatrade Group, made Port Canaveral the exclusive US stop on its Blue Stream weekly container service.

“NYK Lines just added a new service and port call at Port Canaveral,” said Mr Murray.

“The service distributes new vehicles built in Mexico to the US East Coast and the Caribbean. At Port Canaveral the service will be used to provide export customers with an option to load heavy construction equipment and machinery to Caribbean and Central American destinations. The service could go to fortnightly soon with the addition of a second ship in the schedule if the volumes remain strong and support the service.”

Port Canaveral represents an important connection from the US to the Caribbean. The port moved 1,316,701 short tons to and from the Caribbean in 2015. The port’s largest Caribbean trading partner is the Bahamas with salt and petroleum imports.

Martin Marietta Materials imports more than 250,000 tons of aggregates from the Bahamas annually. Morton Salt currently imports over 200,000 tons of salt from the Bahamas each year and also moves general cargo back to the islands. Morton’s facility at Port Canaveral has been in operation since 1990 and annually produces 200,000 tons of pool, premium water softener and agricultural salts. The expansion of food-grade sea salt will mean an additional 10 jobs to augment the 65-person workforce Morton Salt already has at its Port Canaveral operation.


StreamLines offers container services – including imports from Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala – and provides connections from Martinique, Guadeloupe and St Maarten. It also offers the fastest and most direct service from Florida to Europe.

According to Mr Murray, a major advantage of Port Canaveral is the ease of access to the sea and to Florida’s road network. Ships have a very short transit to open water and trucks from the container port can drive directly to the interstate without a stop sign.

With four cruise terminals on the north side of Canaveral harbor and two on the south, the port authority is expanding capacity to accommodate bigger vessels. “We hosted 4.17 million passenger movements in 2015,” said Mr Murray. “We expect to increase that by six to seven per cent by 2017.”

Not only is the port capable of berthing the largest cruise ships, but many of them are home-ported there. In February this year Carnival Cruise Lines replaced the ‘Carnival Sensation’ with the 34 per cent larger ‘Carnival Victory’. In April the arrival of the 3,690-passenger ‘Carnival Magic’ gave passengers access to the line’s newest class of ship and features.


In November this year ‘Norwegian Spirit’ will be replaced by the 4,100-passenger ‘Norwegian Epic’ – the world’s fifth-largest cruise ship.

Also in November, the port’s largest ever home-ported ship will arrive. Royal Caribbean’s 225,282 gt ‘Oasis of the Seas’ – flagship of the largest class of cruise ship in the world – will reposition to Port Canaveral in November. When the ‘Oasis of the Seas’, with a full capacity of 6,360 passengers and 2,394 crew, arrives in the morning then sails again in the afternoon, the port must be able to serve as many as 12,000 passengers in one day for a single ship. Mr Murray says the port expects to host as many as seven cruise ships in one day by next year.

Because of its proximity to Orlando, many passengers combine their Caribbean cruise with a visit to Central Florida’s renowned tourist destinations, as well as to the Kennedy Space Center. Carnival, Disney, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean cruise lines all home-port ships at Port Canaveral. In addition, Port Canaveral is a popular call for ships visiting for the day.

“They represent a big boost to our local economy,” said Mr Murray. “That also means we will need more passport control, customs agents and agricultural inspectors as the passenger and cargo businesses grow.

“We’re pleased to have the CSA meeting be here in nearby Cocoa Beach because we want to showcase Port Canaveral to our Caribbean partners so they are able to see first-hand our developments and understand how we’re investing to serve them better.”

*Edward Lundquist is a retired US Navy captain and writer based in Springfield, Virginia.