The cruise capital of the world, PortMiami, wants to ensure it keeps that title.
To do it, the port has now signed its third agreement in recent years with a major cruise line — in this case Geneva-based MSC Cruises — to build a new terminal at the port. The terminal will sit east of the other two new terminals already in construction from Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.
The Miami-Dade County Commission unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with MSC on Tuesday to build cruise Terminal AAA at the port. The aim for MSC, as it has been for Royal and Norwegian, is to accommodate the line’s largest new ships called the World Class vessels, which at maximum occupancy can carry nearly 7,000 passengers.
Royal Caribbean’s Terminal A will be completed this fall to bring its new Symphony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, to Miami. At maximum occupancy, Symphony can carry 6,680 guests, so though it has less passenger capacity, it is larger than the MSC ships in terms of gross tonnage. In years past, the Miami-based cruise line’s largest vessels have gone to Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades instead, where a terminal was built to accommodate them.
Norwegian’s new Terminal B will be completed in fall 2019 to coincide with the launch of its newest ship, the Norwegian Encore, which carries 3,998 passengers at double occupancy.
MSC’s terminal would come next, with completion set for fall 2022. While specific designs and costs have not yet been announced, some details have been revealed: The terminal would occupy nine acres of land, allow for vessels up to 1,150 feet long, and accommodate a staging and loading area, bus and taxi staging areas and substantial parking.
MSC Cruises USA president Robert Fusaro hinted that new technology and a more seamless embarkation experience may be in the works for the new terminal. Both Royal and Norwegian are focusing on creating a better arrival process at their new terminals.
“The construction of another cruise terminal is further testament of our commitment to U.S. travel partners and their guests, as it will allow us to continue to enhance our service, starting right from embarkation,” Fusaro said in a statement.
MSC is in the midst of a $13.5 billion investment plan that aims to add 10 ships by 2026. The line currently operates 15 vessels. Four of them will sail from Miami by 2019. Currently MSC Seaside sails year-round and MSC Divinia offers seasonal trips, while MSC Armonia will sail to Cuba beginning in December and MSC Meraviglia, the company’s largest ship at 4,488 passengers, will sail from Miami in November 2019.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a statement that the new terminal will create “thousands of jobs” for the South Florida community.
“Investing in PortMiami’s infrastructure positions Miami-Dade County as a global destination for visitors,” Gimenez said.
The county also approved an extension of MSC’s existing Saturday preferential berthing rights, adding Sunday at one of two existing terminals. The new berthing agreement would bring the port $14 million in gross revenue during fiscal year 2019, $16 million in 2020 and an additional 3 percent every additional year.
Also as part of that agreement, the port has committed to spending an additional $3.5 million to make improvements to Terminal F, including an already completed upgrade to the terminal’s audio visual system with new video and digital signage.
The construction of Terminal AAA is contingent upon the port acquiring the rights to the land in that area that is currently under agreement with Terminal Link (Miami) LLC. The port said it is in the process of finalizing those negotiations with the cargo company. Overall, the new cruise terminal is expected to bring an additional 1 million MSC passengers through the port, according to the memorandum of understanding. The port broke a world record in 2017 when it welcomed 5.3 million cruise passengers.
For MSC, the terminal further cements its commitment to its U.S. home port: Miami.
“This will also allow us to make a significant additional contribution to the economy of Miami and the county in its role as the Capital of the Cruise World, especially thanks to the large percentage of international guests traveling to Miami and South Florida to embark and disembark from MSC Cruises ships calling PortMiami,” said Rick Sasso, chairman of MSC Cruises USA, in a statement. “We now look forward to further extending our partnership with the Port and working closely on the development of the new cruise terminal AAA.”