MiamiDade Approves Contracts for PortMiami Cruise Terminals

MiamiDade approves contracts for PortMiami cruise terminals
Rendering of Terminal V planned for PortMiami - courtesy Virgin Voyages

Published Nov 5, 2020 4:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

The county commission that oversees operations at PortMiami voted to proceed with $300 million in contracts as part of the port’s long-term commitment to the cruise industry. The commissioners agreed that it was important to proceed with the port’s current commitments as an effort to maintain Miami’s leadership in the cruise industry once operations resume in the future. 

Like all ports, Miami’s cruise industry has been shut down since mid-March 2020, but unlike many ports, the majority of PortMiami’s revenues come from passenger operations. At the beginning of the suspension of cruising, the port committed to working with the cruise lines supporting them in making dock space available for cruise ships to layup, resupply, and disembark crew. The port also waived and continues to wave fees that would normally have been charged for the cruise ships to dock at Dodge Island.

The county commissioners recently approved contracts for a new cruise terminal as well as upgrades to a second terminal and infrastructure improvements at the port. Before the pandemic, PortMiami had reached agreements with the cruise lines designed to greatly expand the terminal operations in the port. Royal Caribbean International completed construction and opened its new terminal in the fall of 2019, while work was well underway on Norwegian Cruise Line’s new terminal that was expected to open in the spring of 2020. The port also had reached agreements with Virgin Voyages, Carnival Cruise Line, and MSC Cruises for terminals where the work had not yet begun.

The commissioners approved a construction contract for the new Terminal V at the west end of Dodge Island that will be the home for the new cruise line Virgin Voyages started by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. Following the spirit of the cruise line, the new 100,000 square foot terminal according to Virgin Voyages is a palm grove inspired design concept. Reflecting the current economy, the commissioners approved a $158.6 million contract that is about 10 percent below original estimates. Changes have been made to the design “without altering its visual integrity.”  The original plan called for the terminal to open by November 2021.

Also approved was a $120 million contract for the modernization of Terminal F for Carnival Cruise Line. The effort is being scaled back coming in at nearly 40 percent below the original budget estimates. The port and Carnival agreed to upgrade and expand the terminal by 2022 to serve as the home of Carnival’s second new cruise ship, the Carnival Celebration, a 184,000-gross ton LNG-powered ship. The first of the two sister ships, the Mardi Gras, is being homeported at Port Canaveral in central Florida.

Other projects approved by the commissioners include road work supporting the new Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean terminals. Still pending approval are the efforts for MSC Cruises which previously announced plans for a new mega terminal able to handle two large cruise ships at the eastern end of the port. During the summer, there were reports that the port was in discussions with MSC to scale back the project and to share the new terminal with Disney Cruise Line.

During the summer, Miami-Dade County officials authorized the issuance of $335 million in special obligation bonds to PortMiami linked to the revenue generating capital projects with Carnival Corporation, Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Virgin Voyages, and Terminal Link Miami, which operates the container terminal at the port. The container yards need to be reconfigured to support growth while also making space for the expanded cruise operations. Approving the bonds, the commissioners recognized the depth of the economic impact on port operations from the virus and said they wanted the infrastructure projects to proceed to allow the port to continue expanding its business opportunities.