PortMiami is weeks from allowing cruise ships to cut emissions with electric hookups

PortMiami expects to finally offer electricity to docked cruise ships sometime this spring, launching a program aimed at reducing pollution from the world’s busiest cruise port.

The $18 million “shore power” system should be ready for its first cruise ship to plug in before summer begins, said Hydi Webb, director of the county-owned port. Miami-Dade commissioners cleared the way for the launch on Wednesday after approving an agreement with Florida Power and Light, which built the electrical infrastructure.

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The agreement requires the port to reimburse FPL for any portion of the $18 million installation costs not covered by four years of electric bills that cruise companies have promised to pay as part of their agreements with PortMiami. A county memo estimates FPL revenue will hit $25 million during the first four years of shore power availability.

“It’s a really good initiative,” Webb said after the unanimous commission vote. “It’s the right time to do it.”

The shore power systems will turn on in phases, Webb said. Five cruise companies using PortMiami agreed to plug in their ships once shore power was available: Carnival, MSC, Norwegian, Virgin and Royal Caribbean. Not all ships will be able to hook up to electricity when the docks are full, but Webb said PortMiami will be the only port on the East Coast capable of having three cruise ships connected to shore power at the same time.

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who oversees the port, has made shore power a part of her efforts to reduce carbon emissions at county facilities. In 2021, her first full year in office, Levine Cava announced plans to build shore power at PortMiami after a Miami Herald report detailed how Miami-Dade County had pledged to install the technology for a decade but hadn’t followed through.