PortMiami Could Become Southeast’s First Port with Shore Power

PortMiami shore power exploration
Cruise ships at PortMiami before the pandemic (PortMiami photo)

Published Feb 17, 2021 7:27 PM by The Maritime Executive

An agreement has been reached to begin exploring the development of shore power facilities for PortMiami. Miami-Dade County, which operates the port, said that Florida Power & Light and the six leading cruise lines operating from the port plan to begin exploring add cold ironing capabilities to the cruise operations at the port. 

Depending on the timeline for the installation of the capabilities, Miami could become the first port in Florida and the southeastern U.S. to provide shore power hookups. The port would also be catching up with many of the ports in Europe that have announced plans to introduce shore power in advance of a proposed EU regulation that would require ships to turn off their motors while docked.

“We all agree that shore power is the right investment for a climate-resilient future for PortMiami, Miami-Dade County, and Florida,” they wrote in a joint statement announcing the agreement for shore power at PortMiami. “There are many details and issues to be addressed going forward, including port infrastructure investments, ship configurations, financing, and a timeline for availability of electrical power infrastructure. Today is the first crucial step to begin this process by receiving the commitment from the public and private sectors.”

The senior executives of Carnival Corporation, Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Royal Caribbean Group, and Virgin Voyages all committed to working on the shore power initiative. In the past, the cruise lines had said they would support shore power due to its environmental benefits despite its higher operating costs for the ships versus running diesel generators in port. However, none of the cruise lines had independently pursued the capability or specified that it should be included in the new cruise terminals being developed for them at PortMiami.

Miami-Dade’s new mayor, Daniella Levine Cava recently told the Miami Herald that she supported initiatives to introduce shore power for the ships in the port and that her administration would pursue the issues. The Miami Herald has been highlighting the issue raising the question of why it was not incorporated into the port’s plan. 

The office of the mayor will take the lead in this initiative forming a working group with representatives from the port, cruise lines, and power company. In addition to the issues identified in the statement, the critical question remains of the availability of sufficient electrical power on the current Miami grid. If additional power generation will be required, the question is if can it be produced from sustainable sources not to increase emissions from the power generation facilities offsetting the gains from having the ships switch to cold ironing.

The installation of shore power will also require specially designed power transformers at the dock along with a sophisticated system of cables, circuit breakers, and control circuits. It is unclear how many of the current cruise ships scheduled to operate from Miami have shore power capabilities installed or if the cruise lines would also have to commit to a retrofitting of their vessels.

The group agreed to work toward an initial installation as expeditiously as possible and eventually a full rollout in the years to come. Currently, new cruise terminals are being built at PortMiami for Carnival and Virgin Voyages, while work is also proceeding on a new mega terminal for MSC Cruises that might be expanded to also incorporate Disney Cruise Line. The announcement makes no mention of possibly also extending the shore power capabilities to PortMiami’s cargo ship berths.