United States > Florida > Port Canaveral

Port Canaveral

Port Canaveral is a cruise, cargo and naval port in Brevard County, Florida, United States. It is one of the busiest cruise ports in the world with 3.9 million cruise passengers passing through during 2014. Over 3,000,000 short tons of bulk cargo moves through each year. Common cargo includes cement, petroleum and aggregate. The port has conveyors and hoppers for loading products directly into trucks, and facilities for bulk cargo containers. The channel is about 44 feet deep.

There is 750,000 square feet of covered freight storage capacity. It handled 4,000,000 short tons of cargo in 2004. The port exports fresh citrus; bulk frozen citrus juice stored in one of the largest freezer warehouses in the state; cement and building materials. The port receives lumber, salt for water softening, automobiles, and steel sheet and plate. It transships items for land, sea, air and space. Port Canaveral's Foreign Trade Zone is among the largest general purpose FTZs in the nation - over 5 square miles.

In April 2007, shipping was off 25.6% for the previous six months compared to the previous year, down to 295,965 short tons per months. This had risen to 401,544 short tons in August 2010.

Ten ships, on average, enter the port each day.

Governing authority

The Canaveral Port Authority was established in 1953 by the State Legislature and consists of the Board of Commissioners and the Executive Management Team. The Board sets policies such as fiscal, regulatory, and operations, while the executives are responsible for administrative and operational duties. In October, 2015 the board voted unanimously to terminate embattled CEO John Walsh. Walsh clashed with residents over a controversial plan to build a cargo railway through a federally-mananged wildlife refuge. Walsh drew community outrage after calling opponents of his plan "Luddites" and "dogs chasing moving cars." Walsh lied about documentation from the United States Air Force, relating to building the Canaveral Rail through the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The five Commissioners of the Board are elected from the surrounding area by popular vote. They must live in specific areas, but are elected by voters in all five districts. The races are partisan.

Salary is $10,083.72 annually.

The Executive Management Team is headed by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

In 2013, there were 233 staff members, 162 full-time, 71 part-time.


A columnist grouped the history of the actual port into four eras, roughly paralleling the terms of the several directors: 1) initial construction and operation of the port with no clearcut separation of governance and management 1947–2004, 2) expansion of port facilities. Port becomes second in cruise business worldwide 2004–2013, 3) political friction between governance and management 2013–2016, 4) modern era 2016–today.


A post office in the area was built and listed in the US Post Office application as Artesia. and retained this name from 1893–1954; and then went into service for Port Canaveral from 1954–1962.

Dredging a port

The idea of developing a port at this location was first conceived in the 1880s. The port was dredged between 1951 and 1955.

Dedication occurred November 4, 1953, with the Navy destroyer escort USS McClelland (DE-750) participating. Florida U.S. Senator Spessard Holland was the keynote speaker.

Noah Butts, a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, was the first Chairman of the Canaveral Port Authority. The first port manager, George King, was announced in 1954. Commercial fishing had already begun at the port, and in the next year commercial shipping began, with a load of bagged cement delivered by the SS MormacSpruce. In 1955, the Tropicana Corporation began building a refrigerated warehouse for storing orange juice, a local agricultural product, prior to shipping.


Cruise traffic appeared at the port in 1964, with the SS Yarmouth Castle, recently purchased by Yarmouth Cruise Lines from the Chadade Steamship Company. The ship was American owned, with registration from Panama. The ship burned at sea between Miami and Nassau, Bahamas in 1965, and cruise traffic was limited until the 1980s.

In 1965, a lock was dedicated at the port, as part of the Canaveral Barge Canal. The Canaveral Lock is still in operation, and is maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The focus of the port throughout the 1960s and 1970s remained commercial fishing and shipping, with three 400-foot (120 m) cargo piers built on the north side of the Port in 1976, and a succession of warehouses built in the port area.

Port Canaveral has played a role in support of NASA projects out of nearby John F. Kennedy Space Center. During the Apollo program, segments of the Saturn V rocket transited through the port and lock. Most recently the Space Shuttle's external tanks were floated into Port Canaveral for each mission, and the solid rocket boosters were towed back through Port Canaveral after being fished out of the Atlantic Ocean after each launch. NASA contributed $250,000 for improvements in the lock in 1965.

Prior to its disestablishment in 2000, Premier Cruise Line was headquartered in Cape Canaveral.

In September 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) diverted one cruise line from Canaveral (under contract) to shelter Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

In 2008, Sterling Casino Lines ceased doing business at the port. But just a week later, the Las Vegas Casino Line began operating gambling cruises. On March 25, 2009 the Las Vegas Casino Line filed for bankruptcy, joining the Sterling Casino on the list of failed 'Casino Lines' to operate out of Port Canaveral.

In 2009, a commissioner resigned and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced that it was conducting an investigation into possible corruption at the port.

In 2009, the last cruise company to offer gambling, SunCruz Casinos, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy (liquidation). The companies failed due to competition from land-based gambling activities in Seminole Casinos, and Greyhound racing venues. Gambling liners hit a high on 1.0 million passengers in 2004, before starting to decline. Casino operations generated about $5–$6 million annually for the port.

Mega-cruise ship (Freedom of the Seas and the Carnival Dream were homeported here in 2009, and the Disney Dream in 2011)

In the 2010s, SpaceX began using the port for their autonomous spaceport drone ships. In April 2016, the SpaceX CRS-8 booster stage was returned by the ASDS Of Course I Still Love You to Port Canaveral.

Seaport Canaveral was completed in 2010. Vitol SA built a fuel-tank depot with a pipeline to Orlando International Airport. This is a 36 acres (15 ha), 117 US gallons (440 l; 97 imp gal) million storage. It cost $150 million.

Cruise Terminal 6 opened in mid-2012, for Carnival Dream, Carnival Sensation, other Carnival ships.

A recent addition to the port is the seven-story Exploration Tower, which offer tourists almost 550,000 square feet (51,000 m2) of exhibit space, interactive displays, two observtion decks – one inside and one outside – a 72-seat auditorium, and event rooms, as well as a café and a gift shop.

Cruise traffic

Carnival, Disney, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean International are some of the cruise lines which dock at one of the five cruise terminals. The port hosted 109,175 multi-day cruise passengers in October 2008. There was a high of 307,005 passengers in April 2009. This fell to a seasonal low of 221,557 in October. With the loss of daily gambling ship cruises, port authorities do not expect this high to be exceeded for some time. There were 2.8 million passengers in 2010.

In the early 1980s, a new port director, Charles Rowland, shifted the focus towards developing the port to a Cruise port. In 1982, a 20,000 square feet (2,000 m2) warehouse on the north side of the port was converted into Cruise Terminal 1. The SS Scandinavian Sea, a 10,427 ton ship, was the first cruise ship to home-port at Port Canaveral. Early cruises were simple day cruises out into the ocean and back. The Port then purchased two former Bicentennial exhibit halls from NASA in 1983 and they became Terminals 2 and 3 in 1983. The following year the SS Royale of Premier Cruise Line was home-ported at Port Canaveral. The first year-round 3- and 4-day cruises to the Bahamas began. A fourth cruise terminal was Built in 1986. Expansion into the Western Turning Basin began with the construction of Terminal 5. The Carnival Fantasy started sailing from there at that time becoming the first mega-ship to call the Port home.

In December 2014, Port Canaveral and Royal Caribbean International opened Terminal 1, a new terminal building built to handle the Oasis class ships. It was announced in March 2015 that Port Canaveral would become the new home port of the world's largest cruise ship, the Oasis of the Seas.

Ships based out of Port Canaveral

The following cruise ships are home-ported at Port Canaveral:

Ships that visit Port Canaveral

Future ships based out of Port Canaveral

US Navy

The Naval Ordnance Test Unit operates the naval port. They have 100 sailors and 70 subcontractors.

In 2011, the support ship USNS Waters (T-AGS-45) was homeported at the port.

The Trident Turning Basin supports Navy ballistic missile submarines.


In 2011, about 75 percent of cargo was fuel. Overall tonnage rose 40 percent ahead of 2010.

In fiscal year 2007-8, there was a 44.5% drop in cargo in October and November compared with the preceding year. Multiday cruise passengers dropped 14.4%, and gambling passengers dropped 23.7%. Cargo slowdown was attributed to a slowdown in construction in Florida due to the weakened housing market. In 2008, cruise passengers held fairly steady at about 200,000 per month for the year.

In 2007, cement imports, tied to construction, was 13,917 short tons (12,625 t), a drop of 87.6% for the two-month comparison with the previous year. Petroleum, the ports largest single import, was 129,256 short tons (117,259 t), a drop of 25% over the same period. The port handled 11.3 million barrels (1,800,000 m3) of petroleum, equivalent to 473 million US gallons (1,790,000 m3) of fuel in 2010.

Carnival has 140 employees resident at the port.

The channel leading to the port is 400 feet (120 m) wide and 3.5 miles (5.6 km) long.


The SeaFest seafood festival was first held in 1983. The celebration occurred over three days in early spring, and was co-hosted by the Cocoa Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and the Canaveral Port Authority. It featured live music, local artists, and seafood. In 2005, the final year of the festival at the port, 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) of freshly caught fish, including flounder, Florida rock shrimp, blue crab claws and 100 US gallons (380 l; 83 imp gal) of seafood chowder were consumed at the festival. In 2006, because of security concerns and the site being needed for cargo, the festival was forced to move elsewhere and was renamed. In 2008 it tried to move back but was canceled.

Twenty-first century

Two cranes, 273 feet (83 m) tall, and weighing 387,600 pounds (175,800 kg), were installed for use with cargo in 2014. These were used, cost $50,000 and required remodeling.

In FY 2017-8, the port expects to gross $100 million, and net $3 million. About 60% of revenue comes from cruise lines. Cruise-related parking is 18%. About 22% is derived from cargo. Petroleum and related bottled products constitutes 43% of cargo.

In 2017, the port planned to replace the small third terminal with a $150 million one, 190,000 square feet (18,000 m2), in 2019.


. In 2016, 325,000 people visited the park.



The port obtains potable water from the city of Cocoa. A single potable water line from Cocoa runs under the Sykes Creek Bridge at Sea Ray Drive.


Ocean currents move sand along the coast in a natural process known as longshore drift. Because Port Canaveral interrupts this movement of sand, each year about 200,000 cubic yards (150,000 m3) of sand builds up on the beaches located 1 to 2 miles (1.6 to 3.2 km) north of the port's jetties, and sand erodes from the beaches 10 to 15 miles (16 to 24 km) south of the jetties.

To counteract this effect the Canaveral Harbor Federal Sand Bypass Project transfers sand from the shoreline north of the harbor entrance to areas of shoreline south of the entrance. This plan is implemented through a partnership of Canaveral Port Authority, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Jacksonville District), and the State of Florida and Brevard County.

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