PortMiami is on the upswing

The future is incredibly bright for PortMiami, with Juan Kuryla, port director, seeing the potential of seven million passengers by the 2021-2022 cruise season.

Fiscal year 2016 saw the port just miss the 5 million passenger number, booking 4.98 million cruise guests, but a number of big projects are underway.

Terminal capacity is being added for MSC’s year-round operation for the Seaside. “We are enlarging the terminal and buying new passenger boarding bridges,” said Kuryla. “We are delighted to be doing this work.”

The Seaside will pair alongside MSC’s Divina, and more capacity is expected from the Italian line as it builds up its North American program.

Royal Deal

Just a bit up from MSC’s turnaround operation, the port has leased 10 acres of land to Royal Caribbean, which will build and operate its own cruise terminal in time for late 2018, and most likely, the arrival of some very big cruise ships.

Discussions on the deal started in 2014, with the port taking a MOU to the county commission in September 2015.

The agreement was finalized in June 2016, which the port has referred to as a successful public-private partnership.

“The timing was perfect when we started negotiating,” Kuryla told Cruise Industry News. “The port did not have the resources to float the additional debt and it was a model Royal Caribbean found attractive.”

He said with Royal’s orderbook the new facility fits well into their expansion plans.

“This will be a landmark, signature facility for Royal Caribbean and for PortMiami.”

The port director expects five and a half million passengers for 2017-2018 and to break six million come 2018-2019.

More Is Coming

“You are going to see additional throughput we cannot talk about now,” said Kuryla, hinting that more was in the works. Come 2020, Virgin Voyages will also make Miami home.

“It’s all coming into play,” Kuryla continued. “We are talking to every one of our partners and laying the groundwork for growth.”

Discussions are ongoing with Carnival Corporation and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) on their long-term agreements. Kuryla said he expected an amendment to the NCLH agreement to be presented in early 2017.

For 2017, Celebrity will move the Equinox out of Europe in favor of a summer season from Miami.

Disney’s seasonal program with the Magic is solid through 2019, and a bigger presence is expected after that.

Terminal J, which is used by mid-sized ships, may also be on the list to be replaced with a larger and more modern facility.

Harbor pilots have extended the berthing capacity for the location, and with an updated tug requirement, larger vessels are now permitted to navigate and berth at Terminal J.

“It opens the window for a larger class of vessel,” said Kuryla.

“I’ll be bold now … By the time we finish fiscal year 2021 we could be at seven million passengers, and that is 40 percent growth (from 2016),” he continued, attributing it to customer service, the port’s staff and the value it offers.