More than ten million passengers, hundreds of thousands of jobs: on Florida’s coast are the largest cruise ports in the world. But the boom has dark sides.
When the alcohol comes, that’s a sure sign: soon the anchor will be released. Until then, not only does it have to carry all passengers and their luggage on board, but also the fuel that gets the Caribbean vacationers going: Budweiser, Corona, Jim Beam. Every minute, fork-lift trucks push new pallets into the belly of the cruise ship. Nobody seems to be surprised that one could make a complete town drunk with this crowd – the colossus is a complete small town: 300 meters long, eleven decks, space for almost 2500 passengers.
With these dimensions, the ship is still relatively small. Port Miami, the largest cruise port in the world, is used to other dimensions. The floating hotels, which dock there, hold significantly more than 4,000 passengers. Last year alone, more than 5.3 million people boarded Miami, followed by Port Canaveral with 4.5 million and Port Everglades with 3.9 million passengers. Even in the successful cruise industry, such numbers stand out.
There are cameras, border police and detection dogs in the harbor, but no sewage treatment plant
In the ports themselves, the boom means above all one thing: work. Hundreds of employees load luggage, empty containers, clean portholes, check boarding passes. Every morning in Miami, a whole truck-mounted convoy sets up to dispose of waste and feces – its own sewage treatment plant, as is already commonplace in Europe, does not yet exist at the world’s largest cruise port. But cameras, explosives detection dogs and officers of the American border police, who are looking for illegal immigrants, traffickers, drug couriers. It beeps and rattles and clatters in this sea-soaked environment. The delivery vehicles drown out the gulls.
Of all the noise the passengers hardly get anything. They enter the ships via mobile bridges, their luggage is screened, much as in the airplane. “And yet there is a difference,” says Richard de Villiers, a longtime docker. “People still have the feeling of going on vacation here, and no one on the plane is wearing a blazer today, but cruising is still paying attention to etiquette.” That’s not quite true; The percentage of Hawaiian shirts in the terminal is considerable, but access to the port seems to be slower than at the airport. A look at the skyscrapers of Miami, a photo, just no hassle.
Richard de Villiers has known this microcosm for decades. The 48-year-old now works in the higher management of the port – in 1986 he started for $ 5.50 per hour in the service area. “I’ve received complaints about lost luggage,” says de Villiers. Not the most rewarding job, but an instructive start. De Villiers attributes Miami’s number one position to passenger numbers today: proximity to the Caribbean, accessibility to the airport and location factor (several major cruise lines, including Royal Carribean and Carnival Cruise Line, are based in Miami ).
“If we are honest, luck is part of the success,” says de Villiers. As late as the 1960s, Miami was so bankrupt that the city sold the port to the county. To him the terrain belongs to today, whereby the entire region pulls together for a long time, in order to keep the maritime economic engine going. In 2014, a new car tunnel was opened, which connects the port to the highway network and relieves the congested city center. Cost: one billion dollars. In addition, more will be added to the existing seven terminals. The newest is being built by Royal Carribean for $ 247 million and will house the largest cruise ship in the world this year.
It looks similar at Port Canaveral, 350 kilometers north of Miami. Construction work is also in full swing there, so that by the end of 2020 a seventh terminal can be opened. The “master plan” for the next 30 years even envisages four completely new terminals. Estimated cost: $ 2.5 billion.