The Port of Miami, located in Florida, US, is popularly known as the cruise capital of the world and the cargo gateway of the Americas. It is spread over an area of 520 acres and is one of the busiest seaports in the country.
The site where the present-day Port of Miami is situated was discovered as a Tequesta Indian village by Spanish adventurers in the 16th century. In 1721 the village was forcefully taken from Spain by England and was later recovered in 1783. In 1821, Florida was purchased by the US from Spain for $5m. During the same period, European settlers started to move to the village area.
The port was connected by the Florida East Coast Railway in 1896. The port saw rapid population growth in 1920 due to a land boom in Florida. The port, however, remained useless for several years because of a major hurricane in 1926. Development resumed in the 1930s and many Art Deco buildings were created in this period.
Port of Miami facilities
The port is governed by the port authority of Miami-Dade County and handles a wide range of cruise ships and international cargoes.
The port is facilitated by ten cruise terminals. Terminal A was developed by Royal Caribbean Cruises in association with Miami-Dade County. Opened in November 2018, the 200,000ft² terminal serves as the home port for Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships.
Terminal B, also known as the Pearl of Miami, was developed by Norwegian Cruise Line. Opened in August 2021, the terminal covers an area of 190,247ft². Terminal C was opened in 2019.
Terminals D and E can accommodate mega-vessels capable of carrying 5,000 passengers. These terminals have an automatic luggage handling facility, security and inspection system, a VIP lounge and further day-to-day operational facilities.
Terminal F was renovated by Carnival and Miami-Dade County to accommodate the cruise operator’s 7,000 passenger vessels with an estimated investment of $195m. Completed in February 2023, the terminal covers an area of 471,500ft².
Terminal G underwent $2m improvements to upgrade the interiors and waterproof the iconic sails of the roof.
Terminal J caters to passengers of Oceania Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Azamara Cruise Lines and Regent Seven Seas. A $3m upgrade renovated the restrooms and added new furniture, lounge seating and check-in counters to the terminal.
Virgin Voyages opened Terminal V at the port in February 2022 on the northwest side of the port. Built with an estimated investment of $180m, the new terminal covers an area of 122,000ft².
The Port of Miami Terminal Operating Company, operating since 1994, is the port’s only non-carrier-owned terminal operator.
The company implemented a chassis camera for gate transaction processing through the Terminal GateVision System. The company also installed a Terminal Operating System (TOS) for the complete visibility of all containers.
Apart from shipping facilities, the port also facilitates banking, finance, commerce, business and manufacturing services. Clothing, pharmaceuticals, medical instruments, printing and metal products are manufactured here.
The port is known for being one of the world’s busiest, and for the sophisticated modern technology used for security purposes. Security departments involved with the port include US Customs and Border Protection, the US Coast Guard, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, and the Miami-Dade Police and Fire Rescue Departments.
The port uses radiation portal monitors and inspection technology installed with the help of US Customs and Border Protection. The monitors can inspect goods and materials without halting cargo movements.
A waterside radar system and radar video surveillance system were installed by Honeywell to supervise vessel traffic.
These systems are integrated with an automatic identification system, a global positioning system and video data. The systems help security personnel to act quickly in case of potential threats.
In 2022, the port handled 10.2 million tonnes of cargo, 1.2 million TEUs [twenty-foot equivalent units, a measure of shipping container size], and 4.02 million passengers.
The Port of Miami has carried out a number of projects to improve the port and its facilities. The Deep Dredge project was undertaken to deepen the port’s existing channel from 42ft to minus 50ft.
The project was executed by the US Army Corps in partnership with the Port of Miami. The construction agreement was signed by the two parties in August 2012. Construction on the project commenced in August 2013 and it was completed in September 2015.
Deep Dredge was undertaken in response to the Panama Canal expansion, to enable the port to handle the mega cargo vessels that now pass through the canal. It was constructed with an estimated investment of $220m. The State of Florida contributed $112m to the project and Miami-Dade County contributed $108m.
The port was directly connected to Watson Island by a new tunnel named the Port of Miami Tunnel. The $1bn tunnel project began in May 2010 and was completed in August 2014.
The port’s container handling equipment and gantry cranes are managed and maintained by Port of Miami Crane Management. The port uses nine ship-to-shore container-handling gantry cranes.
Cranes 4-6 are Kocks that have been working since 1980. The recently electrified cranes work on 13.2KV of electric power. Cranes 7-10 use diesel power for operation. Cranes 11 and 12 run on 13.2 KVAC shore power and are installed with an ABB DCS600 multi-drive system, an AC410 advant controller and CMS, Flender gearboxes, Bubenzer brakes and ZPMC 20/40/45/2-20 65LT twin-lift spreaders.
Four additional Super-Post Panamax cranes were procured with an estimated investment of $39m by the port to handle large container cargo vessels. The cranes were delivered in October 2013 and began operation at the end of 2013. The cranes can process cargo capacity of more than 10,000 TEUs with upgraded speed and efficiency.
In 2020, six new electric rubber-tired gantry cranes were installed at the port’s South Florida container terminal (SFCT).