More cruises and cargo were the drivers for a banner financial year at Port Canaveral.
The port saw $103.75 million in total revenue for the 2018 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, according to numbers presented by Port CEO John Murray and Chief Financial Officer Mike Poole to the Canaveral Port Authority Board of Commissioners on Wednesday.
The biggest driver in the increased revenue was cargo, which broke $10 million in revenue for the first time in the port’s 65-year history. The port saw 6.4 million tons of things like cars, newsprint, lumber and rocket boosters, a 6.9 increase over fiscal 2017 numbers.
Norwegian Epic made its Port Canaveral debut as it begins seasonal service to the Bahamas and Caribbean on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. The ship is the largest the line has sailed from Port Canaveral and will sail seasonally through at least 2018.(Norwegian Cruise Line)
Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas debuted at Port Canaveral on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016 after moving from Port Everglades to make room for its sister Oasis-class ship, Harmony of the Seas. Oasis of the Seas held the title of world’s largest cruise ship until Harmony’s debut in May 2016.(Royal Caribbean)
The Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas first sailed in 1992 and was slated to retire from the Royal Caribbean fleet in 2016, but the line changed its mind and sails the ship on 3- and 4-night Bahamas cruises from Port Canaveral.(Royal Caribbean International)
Disney Wonder, which received an overhaul with several new features including a Marvel-themed play area and restaurant based on “The Princess and the Frog” in October 2016, will sail from Port Canaveral from January-April 2017 and February-April 2018.(Disney Cruise Line)
The Disney Magic sails out of Port Canaveral at different times, often moving home ports to Miami (seen here) and spending summers in Europe. It’s not slated to return to Port Canaveral until May 2017 where it will have a transatlantic crossing to Europe.(Richard Tribou, Orlando Sentinel)
Carnival Magic departs Messina, Italy, Thursday, May 5, 2011, during its nine-day inaugural cruise.(Andy Newman, Carnival Cruise Line)
Carnival Valor replaced Carnival Liberty in Port Canaveral beginning March 2015 to sail 5- to 8-night Caribbean cruises through October 2016, when it will take over Carnival Victory’s 3- and 4-night Bahamas cruises.(Carnival Cruise Line)
Carnival Breeze, the third Dream-class ship from Carnival Cruise Line, will make its way to Port Canaveral starting September 2018 to offer seven-night eastern and western Caribbean cruises.(Carnival Cruise Line)
Also driving the overall revenue increase was a record number of cruise ship passengers, which port officials said was mostly driven by the year-round sailings of the large-capacity Carnival Sunshine, but also the summer presence of Norwegian Sun, a first for Norwegian Cruise Line.
Total cruise revenue was $77.7 million, which was $4.9 million more than fiscal 2017, a 6.8 percent increase.
The port is the current year-round home for two Disney Cruise Line ships, two Royal Caribbean ships and three Carnival Cruise Line ships as well as the seasonal home for Norwegian Epic and a third Disney Cruise Line ship.
For fiscal 2018, the port maintained its stance as the world’s second busiest cruise port behind PortMiami and ahead of Port Everglades with 4,568,431 cruise passengers moving through the port from multi-day cruising vessels.
That’s 693 calls to the port from cruise ships including not only those that call Port Canaveral home but also those that visit the port from places like New York. The 327,489 increase in passenger count rose 7.7 percent from fiscal 2017.
“These historic achievements are affirmation that the course we’ve charted for our port is a good one,” Murray said in the press release. “We’re continuing to look ahead to strong organic growth, sound business planning, and a clear focus on creating a best-in-class experience for every customer.”
While total revenue was $103.75 million, operating revenue reached $101.72, which is $8.44 million more than fiscal 2017. A press release said the 2018 numbers are 120 percent higher than 10 years ago when the port saw operating revenues of only $46.1 million.
Port officials stressed that while the initial report numbers are good, the final port financial numbers will be presented in January after an audit.
The financial report was part of the monthly meeting of the port authority, which also heard updates on long-term expansion projects including the new terminal to be used by Carnival Cruise Line and plans to renovate Disney Cruise Line’s terminal.
Also on the agenda was an update from the group that runs the Brevard Zoo, detailing the long-term efforts to bring an aquarium to Port Canaveral property adjacent to the Banana River.
“These are exciting times at the port. Our evolution from a small man-made port for the military to a 21st-century economic driver for the Central Florida region and beyond has been driven by deliberate and strategic decisions,” Commission Chairman Wayne Justice said in the release. “Our strong partnerships with our customers and our community, combined with a commitment to enhance the value of our assets and invest in infrastructure will continue to promote solid growth and prosperity.”