Miami-Dade County announced that Florida State grants totaling $33 million over the next five years are committed to PortMiami (the Dante B. Fascell Port of Miami). This is on top of the previously invested $1.3 billion to ready the port for the bigger ships now transiting the newly expanded Panama Canal from the Pacific. The first container ship to pass through the canal and reach Miami, the MOL Majesty, was welcomed on July 9, 2016. Although the Majesty is small, as neo-Panamax ships go, at only 991 feet, it is only the first of many bigger vessels that will enter the port.
According to the Miami Herald, the port expects that it will become the regular first port of call for ships arriving from the Panama Canal; after unloading cargo in PortMiami, the ships will be able to continue north up the East Coast to ports that may not have water deep enough for the neo-Panamax ships when they are fully-loaded. The Majesty did just that.
The past $1.3 billion investment included: dredging the shipping channel to 50 feet and widening it to 52 feet; building a port tunnel to lessen vehicle traffic backups; acquisition of four Super-Post-Panamax cranes; and construction of an on-port rail connection to the Florida East Coast (FEC) rail yard. The tunnel connected SRA1A/MacArthur Causeway to Dodge Island, providing direct access between the port and area roadways and eliminating much downtown traffic congestion.
The 2016 grant allocations will be used to expand Cruise Terminal F so that it is capable of processing 5,000 passengers at once (a $25 million project). The terminal project will include technology upgrades. Additional expenditures will include the purchase of three additional Super-Post-Panamax cranes, upgrades to the PortMiami cargo terminal yards to achieve higher density placements and greater cargo handling efficiency. Future plans for an inland intermodal facility completes the investment scenario.
The port experienced a 14% increase in containerized cargo in FY 2014-2015 and a 2% increase last year. Handling activity totaled 1.03 million TEUs in 2015-2016. As well, almost 5 million cruise passengers transited through the port which is a new world record. The port's goal with this new expansion is to increase containerized cargo by 25% by 2020.
In anticipation of the aforementioned expansion in the cruise ship sector of the port, Royal Caribbean Cruises is currently building a new $200 million, 170,000 square foot cruise terminal, large enough to handle their Oasis class-ships. This is a public-private partnership with the port and could open by 2018. Miami-Dade County will invest $15 million for new roads at the terminal. Royal Caribbean estimates that the new terminal will process 1.8 million passengers annually. At present, the Oasis-class vessels anchor in Broward County's Port Everglades, unable to fit into the current PortMiami situation. Each of these ships can accommodate 5,400 passengers.
Royal Caribbean also will expand its corporate headquarters at the port, building a 20,000 square foot building dedicated to its ships. That project will cost $20 million.
Other cruise lines have announced increased scheduling through PortMiami: Carnival Cruise Line's Vista and Regent Seven Seas' Explorer will arrive this winter. MSC Cruises will homeport MSC Seaside in Miami beginning late next year in addition to the MSC Divina which is already routing into PortMiami. Virgin Voyages will bring a new ship to the port in 2020.