Cruising from Broward County's Port Everglades is on the upswing with more passengers traveling on multiday cruises during Fiscal Year 2009, October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009, than ever before. The Port's variety of business lines - cargo shipping, cruise, petroleum and real estate - and a commitment to holding expenditures at bay are also helping to keep the South Florida seaport profitable despite the global economic downturn.

"While global trade looks bleak this past year, we have to recognize the strides Port Everglades has made over the long term, and continue to plan for the future," Port Everglades Director Phil Allen said. "To paraphrase a quote from Charles Dickens in 'A Tale of Two Cities,' today represents both the worst of times and the best of times. From the worst of times side, people are out of work, consumer consumption is at low levels, global trade volumes are declining, and most state and local governments are facing significant budget deficits. Yet it is also the best of times. It's a time when we can focus on the longer term, throw out our old operating philosophies, and address the future economic vitality of our seaport."

Port Everglades generated $109.7 million in operating revenue during FY2009 and held operating expenses at the same level, $73.2 million, as the previous fiscal year with the increase in net assets remaining flat at $21 million due to an increase in grant funds assisting in infrastructure investments and reimbursements for cruise terminal investments. Operating revenue includes revenue from waterborne commerce, real estate leases, parking and other Port services. In FY2009, revenue decreased by 6.6 percent overall or by 3.5 percent after subtracting a one-time payment of $3.8 million for an early lease termination in FY2008.

Total waterborne commerce, which is measured in short tons (2,000 pounds), decreased by 11.2 percent from 24,227,435 tons in FY2008 to 21,503,720 tons in FY2009.

The number of people traveling aboard traditional multiday cruise ships increased by 7.6 percent from 2,636,711 passengers in FY2008 to 2,836,954 passengers in FY2009. Daily cruise numbers, however, decreased by 48.8 percent for the same time period due to SeaEscape Cruises' departure from the Port. Total revenue from the cruise sector at Port Everglades increased by 3.7 percent from $31,484,126 in FY2008 to $32,655,785 in FY2009.

"We can expect our cruise numbers to continue to increase over the next few years with the addition of Royal Caribbean Line's Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, which are the largest cruise ships in the world and will be sailing every Saturday and Sunday year-round," says Port Everglades Business Development Director Carlos Buqueras. Oasis of the Seas began sailing from Port Everglades in December 2009 (FY2010) and Allure of the Seas is expected to begin sailing from the Port in November 2010. "Once both ships are sailing year-round along with our other cruise line partners, Port Everglades will be in the running for the title of number one cruise port in the world in terms of passenger movements."

Containerized cargo, which has increased significantly over the past 10 years, experienced downturns similar to other major U.S. seaports in FY2009 decreasing by 19.2 percent from a record high of 985,095 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units, the standard used to measure containers) in FY2008 to 796,160 TEUs in FY2009. Tonnage decreased by 21 percent from 6,584,747 tons in FY2008 to 5,204,103 tons in FY2009. Over the past decade, however, containerized cargo tonnage has increased by 27 percent from 4,091,936 tons in FY2000.

Bulk and break bulk cargos such as cement, steel and lumber decreased by 35 percent from FY2008, which Port officials attribute to the downturn in the South Florida construction industry, including the related downturn in the South Florida housing market. Petroleum also decreased, by 5 percent, from 113,941,485 barrels in FY2008 to 108,356,216 barrels in FY2009.

"This past year is a perfect example of how the business diversity at Port Everglades gives us an advantage over many other seaports that specialize in only one or two business sectors," said Allen. "While our overall numbers are down for the past fiscal year, the Port's operating revenue remained in the black during the past year because we held expenses at the same level as the two previous fiscal years and our cruise business increased."

Port Everglades is one of South Florida's leading economic powerhouses, supporting approximately 185,000 jobs in Florida, including some 11,000 people locally who work for companies that provide direct services to Port Everglades. The Port Everglades Department is a self-supporting Enterprise Fund of Broward County government that does not rely on local tax dollars for operations. The total value of economic activity at Port Everglades surpasses $18 billion.