Port expansion could mean big bucks for Brevard businesses

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BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Brevard County's Port Canaveral is getting national attention as a destination for the cruise line industry.

Hundreds of people attending a conference Tuesday are touring the port's new welcome center and hearing about major expansion plans.

It all comes on the same day the ship Norwegian Breakaway made its inaugural call at the port.
   
Next month, Canaveral Port Authority commissioners will vote on building a new cruise terminal complex.  Port officials are already in negotiations to bring in one or two ships to that terminal, which they said could help generate millions of dollars in annual revenue.

The Norwegian Breakaway became the latest ship to add Port Canaveral to its  ports of call.

The 3,900-passenger cruise ship will be anchoring near several local businesses.

"We're very excited about all the growth at the port," said business owner Rich Hensel.

Hensel owns Fishlips Waterfront Bar and Grill.  He said he looks forward to added passenger traffic, but knows the Cove, the area where his business is located, could add traffic of all kinds with a greater diversity of businesses.

"We're real excited to see what that will bring," said Hensel.

Liz and Larry Jackson are local residents and regular cruise passengers who have a trip planned on the Norwegian Breakaway next week.

They said they are excited about the thought of expansion at the port.

"It's very important for them to be able to walk off the ship and just have a good time and spend some money in the area," said Liz Jackson.

Even as port commissioners continue to ponder Cove development, they are raising the ports profile by hosting  the American Association of Port Authority's annual convention and expo in Orlando. 

Next month, commissioners are expected to vote on a new $80 million cruise terminal for larger ships.

"In the short term, the board is considering one additional ship, in terms of home porting, and possibly two in the future," said Tom Weinberg, chairman of the Canaveral Port Authority.

Between that and some 120 ports of call from visiting ships, the terminal could generate an estimated $250 million annually, officials said.

"A lot of people (will be) getting off the ship ready to spend money," said Weinberg.

Wednesday Gov. Rick Scott will join the national conference. He's expected to discuss the importance of investing in ports and port infrastructure.