A $30 Billion Business and Growing

As South Florida’s post-COVID economy expands, Broward County’s Port Everglades is showing impressive growth

As South Florida’s post-COVID economy expands, Broward County’s Port Everglades is showing impressive growth

By Joseph A. Mann Jr.

“We took a little hit from COVID,” admits Jonathan Daniels, who has been CEO and port director at Port Everglades since June 2020. “But we’ve made strong progress in all our business sectors [cargo, cruise, and petroleum] and we are significantly ahead of where we were last year.”

Recent figures bear Daniels out. For fiscal year 2022, Port Everglades reported nearly 9.5 million tons of cargo, up 13 percent over FY2021. More remarkable is their growth in cruise passengers, from the depressed figure of 116,946 in 2021 to more than 1.7 million cruise passengers last year, making them the No. 3 in world behind only Port Canaveral and PortMiami. Petroleum imports, a mainstay of the port, grew to more than 121 million barrels in FY2022, up 13 percent – and higher than the pre-COVID peak in 2019. “We’re beyond recovery and are entering into a new growth mode,” says Daniels.

Founded in 1928 to export local agricultural goods, Port Everglades has grown into an economic powerhouse producing an annual economic impact of more than $30 billion, paying over $1 billion in yearly taxes, and supporting an estimated 206,000 jobs statewide – including more than 7,000 direct jobs with companies that operate at the port.

“We are primarily a consumption-zone port,” says Daniels. “A majority of our imports – clothing, aggregates, fruits and vegetables – are consumed within 80 miles of the port. And 69 percent of all inbound cargo is distributed and consumed in Miami-Dade County. Port Everglades and PortMiami together serve a continuously growing market. Neither port alone is large enough to handle the growth we are going to experience, and we both must invest in order to serve the market.”

To take advantage of South Florida’s increasing economic growth, Port Everglades is identifying new opportunities, investing heavily in expanding and upgrading infrastructure, and attracting private capital for its cargo, cruise, and petroleum businesses, Daniels says. The port is currently in the midst of a $3 billion infrastructure program, part of its 20-year master plan. One key element, with a $471 million price tag, is a project to add five new berths for larger cargo ships and increased container capacity. This project – the largest of its type at the port to date – is called the Southport Turning Notch Extension, and will widen one section of the channel from 900 to 2,400 feet.

In another long-term project, the port is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deepen and widen the port’s navigation channels from 42 feet to 48-50 feet, allowing the port to receive some of the world’s largest vessels. The port recently added three new 175-foot gantry cranes costing $13.8 million each, providing a major boost to cargo handling capacity. Called Super Post-Panamax gantry cranes, each one can lift 66 metric tons and can stack containers eight-high and 22 across. They join the port’s existing six gantry cranes, which reach 151-feet and can handle containers stacked six-high on a ship’s deck and reach 16 across.

The port finances part of its capital programs from its own revenues, which grew to $151.7 million in FY2022, up 47 percent over FY2021. The port’s gross profit margin last year – the dollars that can be used for investments – was nearly $53.9 million, 48 percent higher than the previous year. While the 2022 numbers still lag pre-COVID, Port Everglades has experienced vigorous growth since FY2022 ended September 30. The port also receives support from state and federal sources. For example, it obtained $19.2 million last year from the U.S. DOT’s Maritime Administration, and this year $32 million from the State of Florida, both for a bulkhead replacement program to protect against rising sea levels and flooding. In 2020, the port received $29.1 million in federal funds to relocate the Fort Lauderdale Coast Guard station. It also works with the county, and recently issued $125 million in bonds for expansion projects.

In many cases, investments in cargo and cruise facilities are public-private partnerships. For example, port-funded improvements to cruise terminals – capital plus interest – are repaid over time by cruise company fees paid to the port. Another example: Vecenergy, which offloads petroleum products and provides fuel additives to oil companies at Port Everglades, is building a $75 million jet fuel storage facility (four tanks) on behalf of an aviation consortium.


Port projects can sometimes have clear environmental impacts. In expanding the Turning Notch channel, the port had to remove eight acres of mangroves to make room for the new berths. Prior to removing the trees, the port reclaimed a 16-acre site on port property, created a mangrove nursery, and planted 70,000 mangrove trees. “Today, the site looks like old growth,” says Daniels. “We worked with the Audubon Society when we were setting up the new [sanctuary].” The new site has a viewing tower so visitors can watch birds in the mangroves and manatees in a nearby pool.

Since 1996, Port Everglades has been working on a variety of dredging projects in cooperation with the Army Corps of Engineers, the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For each project, the port conducts studies to identify coral colonies and moves them to new coral habitats where they can thrive. In one case, “Workers saw that a small sea turtle crawled onto an active construction site,” Daniels says. “Work was halted until the turtle was found and moved to a safe place. We are committed to the environment.”

Another element in the port’s environmental and sustainability program is its plan to invest $160 million in a shore power system for its eight cruise ship berths to reduce emissions. Shore power technology allows cruise ships to shut down their auxiliary engines while in port and draw power from a substation on port property, sharply cutting emissions of nitric and sulfur oxides, carbon dioxide, and particulate matter.

Working with Florida Power & Light (FPL), Disney Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean Group, Port Everglades hired Moffat & Nichol consultants to develop a feasibility study on upgrading the port’s power system to provide 16 megawatts of electricity to each cruise terminal. The project, scheduled to start next year, requires construction of a new FPL substation at the port; Port Everglades is requesting cost-sharing assistance from state, local, and federal agencies.


The port’s top challenge now is space. Most of its 2,190 acres is already occupied. “While we see opportunities for strong economic growth, what we don’t have is a lot of land, since we’re hemmed in by the city, the airport, and the water,” says Daniels.

Consequently, Daniels and his team are looking for ways to make more efficient use of the land they have. The use of taller, more powerful gantries to move containers is one example; another is moving some of the maintenance and repair equipment to sites outside the port. The port also asks clients to locate non-essential goods or service areas off-site. This is especially true for towers of empty containers that aren’t retrieved by their owners on a timely basis; the port is looking to store these outside its land.

In an answer to space limitations within Port Everglades, two private companies are investing to provide new warehouses for shippers close by. Seagis Property Group is building nearly 200,000-square-feet of warehouse space just outside the port’s security entrance in Hollywood, while Bridge Industrial is constructing a logistics facility with more than 170,000 square f of space in Dania Beach, less than a mile from the port.


Like other seaports, Port Everglades is on the lookout for new sources of revenue. To bring in new cruise ships, Daniels says the port carefully researches cruise line schedules for the next few years to evaluate their needs. The port can then offer space and time alternatives for future routes. Port analysts also focus on luxury and ultra-luxury cruise options, attracting brands like Viking, Silversea, Azamara, and Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. It helps that the port is located adjacent to Fort Lauderdale, the yachting capital of the world, and is literally minutes away from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Port Everglades also has a different strategy for cargo expansion. “In cargo, some ports constantly contact new shipping lines and terminal operators to search for new business,” Daniels says. “We already have a strong portfolio of large and small terminal operators [companies that provide wharfage, dock, storage, and other marine services to shipping companies], and our view is to help existing terminal operators expand their business by offering them better facilities, investments needed for expansion, and operating agreements that allow them to be more flexible.”

Now the port is re-branding itself, trying to move away from the misperception that Port Everglades is part of the Everglades. Earlier this year, the port adopted the trident – used by Poseidon and Neptune – as their new symbol, representing leadership in oceanic and economic development. The previous logo, with a colorful yellow sun shining in the ‘O’ of “Port Everglades” was dropped.

In promoting the port’s new trident symbol, a creative video showed attractive views of the Everglades, which lies miles to the west of the port. “This is the Everglades. Which is great,” appears onscreen, followed by “But it’s not us. This is us,” accompanied by stirring music and dramatic shots of giant cruise and cargo ships on the water, port activities, and images of life in the nearby cities. No swamp here.

“We’re not the largest port, but we have extremely good resources and service,” Daniels says.

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