As Canaveral Port Authority commissioners, media, VIPs and industry guests attended the official groundbreaking event on Friday for the port’s new $60 million cruise terminal, the port’s leadership was thinking not just of the present, but also about the future.
Using the event as a springboard, port officials called for $34 million in federal or state funding for a major channel widening and deepening project. Port Canaveral is hoping to cash in on the current Panama Canal expansion project, which will allow larger cruise and cargo ships to transit from the Pacific Ocean to Caribbean Sea and on to such Atlantic Ocean ports as Port Canaveral. That project is set for a 2014 completion.
Thus, J. Stanley Payne, the Canaveral Port Authority’s CEO, announced the launch of a new campaign entitled “Go Wide. Go Deep. The Channel to New Jobs.” Publicly addressing President Barack Obama and Florida Governor Rick Scott in his remarks (although neither attended the groundbreaking ceremony), Payne stressed: “This Port is the driver of the future of the Space coast and this channel is the only way in and out. Don’t penalize us for having a solid business plan and a strong balance sheet – make your Port investments because of strength, not because of weakness.”
He added: “I saw today that Senator [Bill] Nelson is working on a creative solution for Jacksonville just for a fix that costs more than what we need for our entire project. How about the Space Coast?”
By summer 2012, the port will have four home-ported cruise ships that are more than 1,100 feet long. “Tankers and bulk ships also need a bigger channel,” Payne stressed, noting that the project need is bigger than simply the port.
“We believe the community has a stake,” he said, noting that “this project is not just about creating new jobs – it’s also about protecting jobs we already have and jobs we know we are going to have.” He said that’s the message that local officials, residents and cruise industry stakeholders could help spread to those in Congress and Florida’s Legislature.
Officials in attendance who heard Payne’s message included Jeff Littlejohn, deputy secretary of regulatory programs, Florida Department of Environment Protection; Cape Canaveral Mayor Rocky Randels; and Titusville Mayor Jim Tulley, among others.
Beyond the hope for channel widening and deepening funds, port officials also stressed that Port Canaveral has much to celebrate. “This is a big day for us,” emphasized Canaveral Port Authority Board Commissioner Joe Matheny. “It is a long-awaited ending and a long-awaited beginning.”
The ending refers to a recently completed $19 million West Turning Basin corner cut-off project. That removed nearly 300,000 tons of material to widen the turning basin for ships. The beginning refers to the groundbreaking for the new Cruise Terminal 6, slated for a summer 2012 completion.
The $60 million, state-of-the-art terminal will accommodate the world’s largest ships and give Port Canaveral the capacity to handle more cruise ships. John Clark, design manager, for Skanska, the new terminal’s general contractor, pledged to hire local Space Coast and central Florida residents for 80 percent of the cruise terminal construction jobs. Several thousand people will be hired.
In addition to Payne and Matheny, other Canaveral Port Authority Commissioners also attended the cruise terminal groundbreaking event. They included Vice-Chairman Bruce Deardoff, Secretary/Treasurer Tom Weinberg, and Commissioners Jerry Allender and Frank Sullivan.
For Port Canaveral news and information, as well as travel agent resources, visit www.portcanaveral.com.