Port Everglades has announced its third consecutive year of growth in cargo and the number of multi-day cruise passengers, according to the South Florida seaport’s preliminary reports for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012.

“We’re seeing a robust upward trend in the Port’s two largest business sectors, cargo and cruise, that further indicates higher consumer confidence and positive economic benefits for the South Florida region,” said Port Everglades Chief Executive and Port Director Steven Cernak. “As a self-supporting seaport, we’re committed to boosting long-term growth by investing in the Port’s resources to make infrastructure improvements that will help our customers expand their businesses and create new jobs.”

The number of multi-day cruise passengers grew slightly with 3,689,000 cruise guests sailing to and from the South Florida seaport during FY2012, up from 3,664,000 the prior fiscal year. The number of multi-day passengers has risen by nearly 60 percent in the past 10 years and is expected to climb gradually to more than 5 million by 2029, according to a marketing forecast prepared as part of the Port’s 20-year Master/Vision Plan approved by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners in 2011.

Port Everglades just completed a $54 million renovation project that upgraded and modernized four existing cruise terminals – terminals 2, 19, 21 and 26 – in time for the busy 2012-2013 winter cruise season. The renovated cruise terminals will be used primarily by Carnival Corporation cruise lines in conjunction with the company’s long-term agreement with the Port. In addition, the Port will be able to accommodate more, higher capacity cruise ships within the next five years as Port Everglades completes a project to lengthen an existing cruise berth by 250 feet and renovate the adjacent Cruise Terminal 4.

Daily cruise ship passenger traffic has dropped off in recent years since the Port’s daily cruise lines – Discovery Cruises and SeaEscape – stopped operating in September 2011 and August 2008, respectively. However, Balerida group, a ferry operator in the Mediterranean for 13 years, began a new high-speed ferry service to the Bahamas from Port Everglades this past year using the 463-passenger fast-ferry Pinar del Rio that takes approximately 2-3 hours to reach Grand Bahama Island. As this service and a second Balearia service to Bimini (the Bahamas) set to launch in 2013 become established, daily passenger counts are expected to grow.

FY 2012 containerized cargo tonnage increased almost 3 percent from FY2011, reaching 5,944,513 tons, and 923, 600 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) were moved through the port, an increase of approximately 5 percent over FY2011, returning Port Everglades to near the record levels that it enjoyed in 2008 (985,000 TEUs), prior to the global economic downturn. Bulk and break bulk cargoes, typically used in construction, also rose in FY2012 over the prior fiscal year, by 83 percent and 27 percent, respectively, with notable increases in cement and steel rebar.

Port Everglades is undergoing three major capital improvement projects totaling more than $500 million to increase cargo business by adding five new berths, deepening its navigational channels to 50 feet and bringing intermodal freight rail on to Port property with its partner Florida East Coast Railway. These improvements, which are expected to be completed by 2017, are estimated to create 7,000 new regional jobs and support 135,000 new jobs statewide when operating at full capacity.