In preparation for a new era of sea travel that will bring larger cargo and cruise ships to South Florida, PortMiami has been awarded $33 million in state grants over the next five years, the port announced Friday.
The opening of the Panama Canal has already brought larger cargo ships to Miami with more growth projected, the port said. It invested $1.3 billion to dredge and widen PortMiami, complete the port tunnel and purchase four Super-Post-Panamax cranes and build an on-port rail link. The port increased containerized cargo traffic by 14 percent in 2014-15, and another 2 percent in fiscal year 2015-16.
On the cruise side, the port broke a world record in fiscal year 2015-16: Nearly 5 million cruise passengers sailed through PortMiami. That industry is projected to boom in the coming years.
In November and December, the port will welcome Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista and Regent Seven Seas’ Seven Seas Explorer, the largest and newest ships for their respective lines.
The biggest ships in the world are coming, too. Royal Caribbean Cruises has begun work on a $200 million cruise terminal that would bring the company’s massive Oasis-class ships, the largest in the world, from Fort Lauderdale to Miami. The terminal is scheduled for completion in late 2018.
Next year, Geneva-based MSC Cruises will home port its MSC Seaside in Miami for the winter season. By 2020, the port is also scheduled to welcome the first ship in billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson’s new venture, cruise line Virgin Voyages.
The grant will help fund the expansion of Terminal F into a mega facility capable of processing more than 5,000 cruise passengers at once. Funds will also be invested into three additional Super-Post-Panamax cranes, upgrades to cargo terminal yards and the development of a future inland intermodal facility.
“Our port is a vital economic engine for not only Miami-Dade County, but all of South Florida and its continued growth represents thousands of jobs and increased opportunities for our community,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez in a release.
PortMiami contributes more than $27 billion annually to Miami-Dade County and generates 207,000 direct and indirect jobs.