Thanks to the great work of Florida’s 15 seaports, Florida has been named the fifth best infrastructure state in America on the latest CNBC America’s Top States for Business rankings. Florida’s long and rich maritime history is a driver of the Sunshine State’s flourishing economy, and Florida’s ports help make our state an indispensable gateway to Latin American and the world.
Earlier this month, Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault met with Florida’s seaports to get the latest updates on the economic development progress being made throughout the state. Soon, we expect DOT to announce individual port allocations for the $250 million in federal stimulus approved by Governor Ron DeSantis. These much-needed resources will go a long way to ensure that our state’s ports continue to deliver necessities to businesses and consumers.
With hurricane season well underway, one essential necessity our ports are always prepared to deliver on is fuel. When the first tropical weather event of the season, Tropical Storm Elsa, was impacting Florida, fuel terminal operations at Port Tampa Bay, Port Manatee and Port Everglades never slowed. Our ports are deeply committed to emergency preparation and natural disasters, and routinely practice hurricane and tropical storm scenarios.
While it’s been a long 16-month journey, cruise travel restarted when the first big cruise ship to set sail out of a U.S. port departed from Port Everglades in late June. What cruising looks like continues to vary from cruise line to cruise line, and there are still unanswered questions related to vaccinations.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled over the weekend to temporarily keep the Centers for Disease Control’s COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on Florida-based cruise ships in place. The CDC regulations will stay in place while the CDC appeals the June decision by U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday that found in favor of the state of Florida. I discussed this with FOX 13 news in Tampa, and you can see it here.
And in a separate lawsuit, the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has sued Florida’s surgeon general, challenging the state’s barring of businesses from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations.
Also, a new transportation law that Governor DeSantis recently signed into law to help ensure cruise ships aren’t further restricted in their ability to conduct business, has drawn the ire of some Key West residents. Key West commissioners have directed their attorney to draft ordinances limiting local cruise ship operations, mirroring city voter-approved measures that were overturned with the signing of SB 426.
We continue to monitor all of these developing situations and will keep you apprised
Finally, congratulations to Clark Merritt on being selected as the new Port of Pensacola Port Director, and to Alex King, recently named as the Port of Panama City Executive Director. On behalf of all Florida ports, we look forward to congratulating both of you in person during the August 24-26 Florida Ports Council’s Fall Board Meeting and Annual Meeting and the Florida Seaports Transportation and Economic Development Council Fall Board Meeting taking place at the Sheraton Panama City Beach Golf and Spa Resort.
In the meantime, thank you for everything you do to help ensure Florida has world-class cargo and cruise facilities to enhance Florida’s global competitiveness.