Port of Miami to begin construction on two new cruise terminals
By Leslie Kraft
The Port of Miami is set to begin construction on two new cruise ship terminals as part of its redevelopment.
Designs are approved for the terminals, planned for construction beginning January 2004 and completion by December 2004 at a cost of $58 million, said Port Director Charles A. Towsley.
The terminals, which are to be 105,000 square feet each and have two passenger boarding bridges, are being built for vessels that hold more than 4,500 passengers with crews of about 2,000, port officials said.
The port is also working with US Customs to simplify processing for passengers and cargo.
"For the first time in the US, we will be combining Customs inspections, immigration and US Department of Agriculture inspections in one stop," said Mr. Towsley.
US Customs and Border Protection officials are overseeing the streamlining of inspections as part of a Department of Homeland Security effort to provide improved security through one authority controlling passenger and cargo entry into the US.
"The terminals are part of our redevelopment program that will take us into the next 10-20 years to accommodate the growth in passengers we are seeing. Year to date, we have had a 10.5% growth rate."
During the port's fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2002, about 3.6 million passengers sailed from ships using its terminals - a 7.4% increase from the previous year. Miami is homeport for two of the world's largest cruise ships - Royal Caribbean International's Explorer of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas. Norwegian Cruise Lines will have two seasonal ships with a base in the port as of October.
Carnival Cruise Lines is expected to be the primary user of the new terminals, said Vance Gulliksen, company spokesman. "The Port of Miami continues to be the No. 1 departure point for Carnival cruises. Six of the line's ships are homeported at the Port of Miami on a year-round or seasonal basis, accounting for around 800,000 guests annually."
He said Carnival has three ships on order - the 2,124-passenger Miracle, which will make its debut sailing from Jacksonville in March and move to Tampa for year-round sailings later in the year; and the 2,974-passenger ships Valor and Liberty, whose itineraries have not been set.
The new terminals, which are to be named D and E, will feature a $2.3 million, 10,000-square-foot provisions building where stores for the ship and passenger cargo will be screened before they are transported to the wharf and ships. There will also be new luggage conveyor systems with X-ray scanners and additional ones for carry-on luggage and passenger screening.
"This inspection system will also be the first in the country to centralize all inspections for cargo in one place," Mr. Towsley said.
On both sides of the terminals, there will be room for each to accommodate 22 tour buses. The areas will have roof canopies protecting buses and passengers from sun and rain, officials said.
The port's estimated $171 million redevelopment program also includes the remodeling of terminals eight and nine and parking garages that have just been completed. A new passenger gateway and an access-road complex will be developed to separate passenger traffic from the cargo-gate complex to enhance safety and security, port officials said.
Funding for the terminals projects will come in part from monies available through the Sunshine State Loan program and from $1.69 million already set aside from prior bonds, port officials said. The port will also apply for a Transportation Security Administration loan of $1.5 million to fund the building of the provisions and cargo facility.
Oceania Cruises will make Miami its homeport for its first ship, the 684-passenger Regatta, scheduled to begin sailing in November, said spokesman Tim Rubacky. "We were very pleased to be able to take advantage of an underutilized terminal to get the preferred berthing that we wanted."
Oceania, which has purchased two ships from bankrupt Renaissance Cruises and now has its corporate headquarters with 65 staff in Doral, said it has a letter of intent to purchase a third from Renaissance and will give each ship a $10 million refurbishment. Each ship can accommodate about 700 passengers.
"We will also use Miami as a port of call for at least one of the ships," Mr. Rubacky said.
Norwegian Dawn is the only ship using Port of Miami as a port of call, or destination port. Miami has traditionally been more of a departure and end point for cruises, however the port is working with the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau to promote the city as a port of call and vacation destination, officials said.