Port Canaveral
The Exploration Tower
Click on the map for a fullscreen view
Country United States
LocationBrevard County, Florida
Operated byPort Canaveral
No. of berths18[2]
Draft depth39.5 feet (12.0 m)[2]
Annual cargo tonnage6 million tons
Passenger traffic4.07 million
Canaveral Port Authority

Port Canaveral is a cruise, cargo, and naval port in Brevard County, Florida, United States. The port has the busiest cruise terminals in the world. In 2022, the port had over 4 million passengers passing through it during the fiscal year.[3] Additionally, over 5.4 million tonnes of bulk cargo moves through each year.[4]

Primary cargoes include slag, salt, vehicles, containers, petroleum, heavy equipment, lumber, and aggregate.[5] The port has conveyors and hoppers for loading products directly into trucks and facilities for bulk-cargo containers. The channel is about 44 feet (13 m) deep.[6]

The port exports fresh citrus; bulk-frozen citrus juice stored in one of the largest freezer warehouses in the state; cement; and building materials. The port receives lumber, salt for water-softening, automobiles, and steel sheet and plate. It transships items for land, sea, air, and space.

On average, ten ships enter the port each day. This includes ships from cruise lines such as Carnival, Disney, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and more.[7][8]

Governing authority

The Canaveral Port Authority was established in 1953 by the State Legislature and consists of the Board of Commissioners and the Executive Management Team. The Board sets policies such as fiscal, regulatory, and operations, while the executives are responsible for administrative and operational duties. In October 2015 the board voted unanimously to terminate embattled CEO John Walsh. Walsh clashed with residents over a controversial plan to build a cargo railway through a federally managed wildlife refuge. Walsh drew community outrage after calling opponents of his plan "Luddites" and "dogs chasing moving cars." Walsh lied about documentation from the United States Air Force, relating to building the Canaveral Rail through the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.[9]

The five Commissioners of the Board are elected from the surrounding area by popular vote. They must live in specific areas but are elected by voters in all five districts. The races are partisan.

Salary is $10,083.72 annually.

The Executive Management Team is headed by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).[10][12]

In 2013, there were 233 staff members, 162 full-time, 71 part-time.[13]

In FY 2017, the Canaveral Port Authority had 223 full-time equivalent employees.[10]


A columnist grouped the history of the actual port into four eras, roughly paralleling the terms of the several directors: 1) initial construction and operation of the port with no clearcut separation of governance and management 1947–2004, 2) expansion of port facilities. Port becomes second in cruise business worldwide 2004–2013, 3) political friction between governance and management 2013–2016, 4) modern era 2016–present.[14]


A post office in the area was built and listed in the US Post Office application as Artesia.[15] and retained this name from 1893 to 1954; and then went into service for Port Canaveral from 1954–1962.

Dredging a port

Port Canaveral's former logo. Note the anchor and Space Shuttle.


The idea of developing a port at this location was first conceived in the 1880s. The port was dredged between 1951 and 1955.[6] Dedication occurred November 4, 1953, with the United States Navy destroyer escort USS McClelland participating. Florida U.S. Senator Spessard Holland was the keynote speaker.[17]

Noah Butt[18], a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, was the first Chairman of the Canaveral Port Authority.[19] The first port manager, George King, was announced in 1954. Commercial fishing had already begun at the port, and in the next year commercial shipping began, with a load of bagged cement delivered by the SS MormacSpruce.[17] In 1955, the Tropicana Corporation began building a refrigerated warehouse for storing orange juice, a local agricultural product, prior to shipping.


Panoramic view taken from Exploration Tower. Passenger ships from left to right: Disney Cruise Line ship, Carnival Liberty, and Mariner of the Seas.

Cruise traffic appeared at the port in 1964, with the SS Yarmouth Castle, recently purchased by Yarmouth Cruise Lines from the Chadade Steamship Company. The ship was American owned, with registration from Panama. The ship burned at sea between Miami and Nassau, Bahamas in 1965, and cruise traffic was limited until the 1980s.

In 1965, a lock was dedicated at the port, as part of the Canaveral Barge Canal. The Canaveral Lock is still in operation and is maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The focus of the port throughout the 1960s and 1970s remained commercial fishing and shipping, with three 400-foot (120 m) cargo piers built on the north side of the Port in 1976, and a succession of warehouses built in the port area.

The rocket booster recovery ship Freedom Star with a spent solid rocket booster (SRB) from the STS-114 launch in tow as it makes its way through Port Canaveral.

Port Canaveral has played a role in support of NASA projects out of nearby Kennedy Space Center. During the Apollo program, segments of the Saturn V rocket transited through the port and lock. Most recently, the external fuel tanks of the Space Shuttle were floated into Port Canaveral for each mission, and the solid rocket boosters towed back through Port Canaveral upon retrieval from the Atlantic Ocean after each launch. NASA contributed $250,000 for improvements in the lock in 1965.[20]

In 1990, Morton Salt began operations at the port. In 2018, it imported salt from the Bahamas and produced 200,000 short tons (180,000 t) of pool, water softener, sea salt, and agricultural salts.[21]

Prior to its disestablishment in 2000, Premier Cruise Line was headquartered in Cape Canaveral.[22]

In 2008, Sterling Casino Lines ceased doing business at the port.[23] A week later, the Las Vegas Casino Line began operating gambling cruises. On March 25, 2009, the Las Vegas Casino Line filed for bankruptcy, joining the Sterling Casino on the list of failed 'Casino Lines' to operate out of Port Canaveral.

In 2009, a commissioner resigned and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced that it was conducting an investigation into possible corruption at the port.[24]

In 2009, the last cruise company to offer gambling, SunCruz Casinos, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy (liquidation). The companies failed due to competition from land-based gambling activities in Seminole Casinos, and Greyhound racing venues. Gambling liners hit a high on 1.0 million passengers in 2004, before starting to decline.[25] Casino operations generated about $5–$6 million annually for the port.[26]

Mega-cruise ships Freedom of the Seas and Carnival Dream were homeported in Port Canaveral in 2009, followed by the Disney Dream in 2011.

In the 2010s, SpaceX began using the port for their autonomous spaceport drone ships (ASDS). In April 2016, the ASDS Of Course I Still Love You returned the first Falcon 9 booster recovered at sea to Port Canaveral.[27]

Seaport Canaveral was completed in 2010. Vitol SA built a fuel-tank depot with a pipeline to Orlando International Airport. The 36-acre (15 ha), 117,000,000-US-gallon (440,000,000 L; 97,000,000 imp gal) storage depot cost $150 million.[28]

Cruise Terminal 6 opened in mid-2012, for Carnival Dream, Carnival Sensation, and other Carnival ships.

A recent addition to the port is the seven-story Exploration Tower, which offers tourists almost 550,000 square feet (51,000 m2) of exhibit space, interactive displays, two observation decks – one inside and one outside – a 72-seat auditorium, event rooms, and a café and gift shop.[29]

Canaveral Pilots

In the year 1968 the Canaveral Pilots Association was founded by pilots Frederick Dezendorf and Frederick Jonassen.[30] The Canaveral Pilots Association is the local association of state and federally licensed harbor pilots who board all inbound and outbound foreign-flagged ocean-going ships, as well as select U.S. flagged vessels who call on the port. While on board the ships, the pilot take conn and direct the movement of the vessels when navigating the channels and basins of Port Canaveral.[31] The association currently owns two single screw, aluminum hull Bill Preston designedpilot boats that are used to pick up and drop off pilots from a vessel.[32] As of September 2022, there is currently eight state licensed pilots (Unit K, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S) at the port with two deputy pilot (Unit U, T).[33] In Port Canaveral the pilot boarding station for most large foreign flagged inbound vessels is two miles southeast of sea-buoys 3/4. Pilot boarding/disembarkation speed is 6-to-8 knots.

Cruise traffic

Carnival, Disney, Norwegian, MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean International are some of the cruise lines which dock at one of the six cruise terminals. Princess Cruises will begin to homeport a ship at Port Canaveral in 2024, along with Celebrity Cruises[34] The port hosted 109,175 multi-day cruise passengers in October 2008. There was a high of 307,005 passengers in April 2009. This fell to a seasonal low of 221,557 in October. With the loss of daily gambling ship cruises, port authorities do not expect this high to be exceeded for some time.[35] There were 2.8 million passengers in 2010.[36]

In the early 1980s, a new port director, Charles Rowland, shifted the focus towards developing the port to a Cruise port. In 1982, a 20,000 square feet (2,000 m2) warehouse on the north side of the port was converted into Cruise Terminal 1. The SS Scandinavian Sea, a 10,427-ton ship, was the first cruise ship to home-port at Port Canaveral. Early cruises were simple day cruises out into the ocean and back. The Port then purchased two former Bicentennial exhibit halls from NASA in 1983 and they became Terminals 2 and 3 in 1983. The following year the SS Royale of Premier Cruise Line was home-ported at Port Canaveral. The first year-round 3- and 4-day cruises to the Bahamas began. A fourth cruise terminal was built in 1986. Expansion into the Western Turning Basin began with the construction of Terminal 5. The Carnival Fantasy started sailing from there at that time becoming the first mega-ship to call the Port home.

In December 2014, Port Canaveral and Royal Caribbean International opened Terminal 1, a new terminal building built to handle the Oasis-class ships. It was announced in March 2015 that Port Canaveral would become the new home port of the world's largest cruise ship, the Oasis of the Seas.[37]

Ships based out of Port Canaveral

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The following ships are home-ported at Port Canaveral:

MS Freedom of the Seas at Port Canaveral in 2016
MS MSC Divina at Port Canaveral in 2016

Ships that visit Port Canaveral

Future ships based out of Port Canaveral

US Navy

The Naval Ordnance Test Unit operates the naval port. They have 100 sailors and 70 subcontractors.[42][43]

In 2011, the support ship USNS Waters was homeported at the port.[44]

The Trident Turning Basin supports Navy ballistic missile submarines.[45]


In 2011, about 75 percent of cargo was fuel. Overall tonnage rose 40 percent ahead of 2010.[46]

In fiscal year 2007–2008, there was a 44.5% drop in cargo in October and November compared with the preceding year. Multi-day cruise passengers dropped 14.4%, and gambling passengers dropped 23.7%. Cargo slowdown was attributed to a slowdown in construction in Florida due to the weakened housing market. In 2008, cruise passengers held fairly steady at about 200,000 per month for the year.[47]

In 2007, cement imports, tied to construction, was 13,917 short tons (12,625 t), a drop of 87.6% for the two-month comparison with the previous year.[48] Petroleum, the ports largest single import, was 129,256 short tons (117,259 t), a drop of 25% over the same period.[49] The port handled 11.3 million barrels (1,800,000 m3) of petroleum, equivalent to 473 million US gallons (1,790,000 m3) of fuel in 2010.[50]

Carnival has 140 employees resident at the port.[51]

The channel leading to the port is 400 feet (120 m) wide and 3.5 miles (5.6 km) long.[52] The maximum allowable draft for vessels calling at Port Canaveral is 40″ 00″. Any vessel with a draft that does not exceed 38′ 00″ may transit the channels and basins at any time and stage of the tide. Vessels that draft more than 38″ 00″ are considered “tide jobs” and generally are scheduled to transit inbound two hours prior to high tide.[53]


The SeaFest seafood festival was first held in 1983.[54] The celebration occurred over three days in early spring, and was co-hosted by the Cocoa Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and the Canaveral Port Authority. It featured live music, local artists, and seafood. In 2005, the final year of the festival at the port, 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) of freshly caught fish, including flounder, Florida rock shrimp, blue crab claws and 100 US gallons (380 L; 83 imp gal) of seafood chowder were consumed at the festival. In 2006, because of security concerns and the site being needed for cargo, the festival was forced to move elsewhere and was renamed. In 2008 it tried to move back but was canceled.

Tugboats at dock in Port Canaveral (2016)

Twenty-first century

Two cranes, 273 feet (83 m) tall, and weighing 387,600 pounds (175,800 kg), were installed for use with cargo in 2014.[55] These were used, cost $50,000 and required remodeling.[56]

In FY 2017–2018, the port expected to gross $100 million, and net $3 million. About 60% of revenue came from cruise lines. Cruise-related parking was 18%. About 22% was derived from cargo. Petroleum and related bottled products constituted 43% of cargo.[57]

In 2017, the port planned to replace the small third terminal with a $150 million one, 190,000 square feet (18,000 m2), in 2019.[58]

In 2018, the port announced a planned agreement with Carnival Cruise Line to accommodate Carnival's new 180,000-short-ton (160,000 t) ship. This ship would use the now under construction Terminal 3 as its home-port.[59]


The Canaveral Port Authority owns and operates Jetty Park.[60][61] In 2016, 325,000 people visited the park.[62]


Ocean currents move sand along the coast in a natural process known as longshore drift. Because Port Canaveral interrupts this movement of sand, each year about 200,000 cubic yards (150,000 m3) of sand builds up on the beaches located 1 to 2 miles (1.6 to 3.2 km) north of the port's jetties, and sand erodes from the beaches 10 to 15 miles (16 to 24 km) south of the jetties.[6]

To counteract this effect the Canaveral Harbor Federal Sand Bypass Project transfers sand from the shoreline north of the harbor entrance to areas of shoreline south of the entrance. This plan is implemented through a partnership of Canaveral Port Authority, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Jacksonville District), and the State of Florida and Brevard County.[63]

See also


  1. ^ "UNLOCODE (US) - UNITED STATES". service.unece.org. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Port of Port Canaveral, U.S.A." www.findaport.com. Shipping Guides Ltd. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  3. ^ "Port Canaveral surpasses Miami as world's busiest cruise port". www.floridatoday.com. Retrieved 2023-03-02.
  4. ^ "Port Canaveral". www.portcanaveral.com. Retrieved 2019-01-10.
  5. ^ "AAPA Seaports of the Americas - 2018 Membership Directory". www.nxtbook.com. Retrieved 2019-01-10.
  6. ^ a b c Waymer, Jim (5 April 2010). "Transfer replenishes Brevard's beaches". Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. pp. 1A.
  7. ^ "Port Canaveral". www.portcanaveral.com. Retrieved 2019-01-09.
  8. ^ Peterson, Patrick (1 March 2010). "Harbor pilots steer clear of rule change". Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. pp. 14A. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015.
  9. ^ "CPA: Walsh Ouster Recap". by Ted Lund. 25 September 2015. Retrieved 2016-01-30.
  10. ^ a b c d "COMPREHENSIVE ANNUAL FINANCIAL REPORT" (PDF). www.portcanaveral.com. Retrieved 2019-01-09.
  11. ^ Emre.Kelly. "Election results: Robyn Hattaway wins Canaveral Port Authority District 5". Florida Today. Retrieved 2019-01-09.
  12. ^ "Ted Lund Outdoors". by Ted Lund. Retrieved 2016-01-30.
  13. ^ Berman, Dave (March 1, 2013). "High turnover 'hemorrhaging talent' at Port". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 1A.
  14. ^ Byron, John (January 29, 2017). "Port Canaveral entering a new. steadier era". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 18A. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  15. ^ Osborne, Ray (2008). Cape Canaveral. Images of America. Arcadia Publishing. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-7385-5327-6.
  16. ^ "Port Canaveral | Identity Standards Guide | March 2014 April 2014" (PDF). www.portcanaveral.com. Retrieved 2019-01-10.
  17. ^ a b "BREVARD COUNTY HISTORY: Port Canaveral is a Culmination of a Long Awaited Dream". spacecoastdaily.com. May 23, 2021. Retrieved May 7, 2023.
  18. ^ "List of members of the Florida House of Representatives from Brevard County, Florida", Wikipedia, 2017-10-26, retrieved 2019-01-09
  19. ^ "Official website" (PDF). portcanaveral.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-27.
  20. ^ "1967 NASA authorization: Hearings, Eighty-ninth Congress". Congressional Record. 1967.
  21. ^ Saggio, Jessica (January 21, 2018). "10 things you probably don't know about the Space Coast". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 3A, 4A. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
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  23. ^ Florida Today retrieved July 8, 2008 Archived April 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
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  26. ^ Price, Wayne T. (10 January 2010). "Is there a future for casino ships". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 3E.
  27. ^ Stephen Clark (9 April 2015). "SpaceX lands rocket on ocean-going drone ship". Spaceflight Now.
  28. ^ "2010". Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. 26 December 2010. pp. 1E. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015.
  29. ^ "About Exploration Tower" The Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral website
  30. ^ "Canaveral Pilots Association – Retired Pilots". Retrieved 2022-10-08.
  31. ^ "Canaveral Pilots Association – About Us". Retrieved 2022-10-08.
  32. ^ "Canaveral Pilots Association – Vessels". Retrieved 2022-10-08.
  33. ^ "Canaveral Pilots Association – Our Pilots". Retrieved 2022-10-08.
  34. ^ "The title of world's busiest cruise port shifts to Port Canaveral".
  35. ^ Price, Wayne T. (30 May 2010). "Competition heats up for port". Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. pp. 1E.
  36. ^ Price, Wayne T. (9 January 2011). "Disney, port linked in success". Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. pp. 1E.
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  44. ^ Moody, R. Norman (September 17, 2011). "Navy support ship sails back to port". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 6B.
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  46. ^ "Not all bad:Some things to be thankful for". Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. November 27, 2011. pp. 1D.
  47. ^ "Cruise lines offer deals". Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. March 30, 2009. pp. 8C.
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  50. ^ Moody, R. Norman (January 30, 2011). "Guidelines tight to drive a fuel tanker". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 2A.
  51. ^ Price, Wayne T. (April 8, 2011). "Carnival cruisers like Canaveral". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 8C.
  52. ^ King, Ledyard (May 16, 2013). "Senate authorizes port widening". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 1A. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  53. ^ "Operations – Canaveral Pilots".
  54. ^ Balancia, Donna (March 11, 2008). SeaFest short on funding, canceled. Florida Today.
  55. ^ Berman, Dave (March 22, 2014). "Cranes here to give port a lift". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 1A, 5A. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
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  63. ^ "Beach Renourishment". Canaveral Port Authority. Retrieved 17 April 2016.

28°25′N 80°37′W / 28.41°N 80.61°W / 28.41; -80.61