Port Canaveral to widen cruise channel in the fall

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PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. —

The world's second-busiest cruise port will soon be even busier with plans to widen the Port Canaveral channel.

John Walsh, interim Port Canaveral CEO, said plans to widen the 400-foot channel by 100 feet and deepen it by 2 feet are well underway and could break ground in the fall.

Walsh said a wider channel would accommodate larger ships and lead to bigger profits, not just for the port but for the businesses surrounding it.

Hotelier Tom Williamson said it's a win-win.

"The number of visitors, the number of ships will hopefully carry more people. More people will come in to stay on the ships," Williamson said.

The U.S. Senate just passed the proposed Water Resources Development Act. It would authorize millions of dollars in federal aid for the dredging of the Port Canaveral channel. It would also require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain the channel once it's expanded. The House has yet to pass the bill.

Walsh said with or without the funds, they are ready to go.

"We just need some final permits, and our plans are about 90 percent complete. We intend to be widening the channel,” Walsh said.

The port has $24.5 million in state funding and its own resources to begin the project in the fall.

Walsh said the widening will allow large cruise ships to come into Port Canaveral safely.

"It'll allow larger tankers and bulk carrier ships to come in, which is the way the industry is going, with shops, and it all (will) lead to jobs," Walsh said.

The widening could help the port attract more cargo ships, and maybe enough cruise clients to rival the busiest cruise port, the Port of Miami.