Fuel may finally flow at Port Miami
To build on its international recognition as a major cruise and cargo port, PortMiami might change the way it fuels large ships.
PortMiami doesn’t have on-port fueling. Rather, a tugboat and barges deliver fuel to the port from a terminal on Fisher Island.
That has been costly and time consuming. It takes five hours to fill a barge with fuel and an hour for a tug to push the barge to PortMiami, where cruise and cargo ships fill up. Fuel deliveries must be scheduled days in advance.
In addition, cruise and cargo ship operators have said they pay about $40 more per ton of fuel at PortMiami than at other Eastern Seaboard ports.
That could be partially due to the oligopoly held by several marine fuel suppliers. Many customers choose not to fuel at PortMiami, which drives down the port’s fuel revenues.
Officials have considered two upgrade options: Building an on-port fuel facility and a dockside hydrant system or installing below-the-bay pipes to flow fuel from Fisher Island to PortMiami.
Following a study, county-retained Coral Gables-based architecture, design, engineering and construction company AECOM recommended an on-dock fueling terminal – even though such a facility carries some disadvantages.
Namely, it would eat up as much as 10 acres at PortMiami, which is already tight on land. In addition, such a facility would reduce bunker, or marine, fuel costs by $1.17 per barrel, not enough of a drop to prompt a lot more cruise and cargo ships to fill up at PortMiami.
This model would, however, cut the port’s annual fueling operating cost by $3.2 million, AECOM’s analysis found.
An on-port bunker terminal and a dockside hydrant system would cost about $41.9 million to design and build. It would also eat up one berth position.
An on-port fueling facility on Dodge Island would have an annual operating cost estimated at $2.8 million, records shpw.
In its report, AECOM outlines a structure whereby PortMiami would rent out its land for the bunker facility to a third party at $100,000 per acre annually.
The alternative, building a pipeline between Fisher Island and PortMiami, has an estimated capital cost of $17.7 million, much lower than an on-port facility. In addition, the bay pipeline system would take less than half an acre of port land, records show.
AECOM’s study was prompted by a county commission vote directing staff to study an alternative fueling structure. Months before that, a similar AECOM study exploring PortMiami’s marine fueling options from the vantage point of the port’s overall fueling upgrades goals had concluded that PortMiami should invest in the pipeline fueling system that would run from Fisher Island to PortMiami since such a system would not use up port land.
One of PortMiami’s marine fuel goals is to conserve port acreage as long as there’s another viable option for a fueling infrastructure upgrade. That study also recommended that the port set up a buying consortium to drive down fuel costs.
A PortMiami representative didn’t respond to a request for comment on whether the port has acted on either study.