Port Canaveral targets marina for future cruise terminal site

Tribune Content Agency

Florida’s Port Canaveral earned the title of world’s busiest cruise port besting Miami for the first time in 2022, but with only six terminals available, the port’s potential for growth is limited.

Plans to build a seventh have been in discussion for a while, and last week Port Canaveral CEO Capt. John Murray revealed just where they plan to stick it, focusing on space currently occupied by Bluepoints Marina on the south side of the port west of Cruise Terminal 1.

“I’m making it public today,” Murray said during the Canaveral Port Authority Commission meeting Wednesday noting that port officials have been analyzing all of the water-facing space, known as bulkhead, that allows for boats and ships to come alongside at the port.

“We’re reviewing all the surrounding property usage development, and the solution will focus on what we do,” Murray said, meaning the port should have businesses that need waterfront access. “We have not had a design or anything yet, but the solution will focus on optimizing our bulkhead and minimizing our community impact.”

Already, the port has told some businesses with leases coming up in the next couple of years that they won’t be renewed.

“It comes back to what needs to be here? If we’re looking at the marina district and somebody’s repairing propellers, doing marine engine service or making towers — I mean those are all businesses that support a marina operation,” Murray said. “They need to be here. Storage units? Gunshop? Hate to throw it out there, but you know, we have one of those and do they need to be in the port? Probably not.”

Port Canaveral was able to finish a revamped Cruise Terminal 3, home of Carnival’s Mardi Gras, during the COVID-19 pandemic and has had six fully operational terminals since the restart of cruising in summer 2021. It has also increased the number and size of the ships calling Port Canaveral home as well as adding new cruise lines to its current and future stable.

That includes Princess Cruises announcing it will sail from the port starting in 2024 for the first time. Also new to the port since the restart has been MSC Cruises and just this month the first sailing of the Marella Discovery run by United Kingdom-based TUI. Through the first seven months of the 2023 fiscal year, the port has seen record traffic of 551 ship calls carrying more than 4 million passengers.

A seventh cruise terminal will allow the port to keep up with demand, even though PortMiami currently with nine terminals and two more on the way, is expected to retake the title of world’s busiest cruise port by next year with cruise business back to prepandemic levels. Port Everglades, which has been No. 3 in the world for several years, has eight cruise terminals as well.

But just because the port is pursuing another cruise terminal, port officials say that doesn’t mean they have forgotten about the smaller boats that currently use that marina and other waterside space around the port.

“We recognize that there are businesses that have to have bulkhead space in the port,” he said. “That ranges from the commercial fishermen, the recreational boaters, the space industry, cruise industry. If you need to be in the port, then you need to be in the port, and we’re going to figure out how to make that happen. That’s our commitment.”

During public comment, some raised the alarm about the port’s focus. That included Jamie Glasner of Cocoa Beach who runs Fin & Fly Charters out of Port Canaveral.

“I’m just a little concerned about the cruise industry here,” he said. “What’s the main agenda? Is it going to be taking over the port?”

Glasner said he runs four ships with independent contractors that sail about 1,000 charters a year serving up to 6,000 people “staying, eating at restaurants, hotels, going to the beach, spending money throughout the whole community,” he said. “So I’m here basically, my whole livelihood is here out of Port Canaveral and I’d just like to be able to stay here, have dock space for us.”

Murray and some of the commissioners committed to making sure any displaced from Bluepoints Marina would get a new home, perhaps in a space that doesn’t need as deep water as what currently is taken by Bluepoints Marina.

“I definitely want to re-emphasize that this port is not just about cruising,” said Commission Chairman Kevin Markey. “I’ve lived here my whole life. … It’s as important to me personally as well as in my position to make sure that we accommodate all these interests as best as we can. It’s not just cruising.”