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A Proud History

Port Canaveral has an illustrious an historic participant in the space program, a strategic base for our military, a rising cargo and cruise port and home to many businesses.

The Navy first asked Congress to approve construction of a deepwater port at Canaveral in 1878. However, it took half a century until approval was granted in 1929, and another two decades before the port's potential economic value was recognized fully. Port Canaveral, the major deepwater point of entry for Central Florida, ultimately was constructed for military and commercial purposes. It was dedicated on November 4, 1953.

The first industry here was commercial fishing. Cargo vessels started arriving within a few years, laden with oil and newsprint, and tanker vessels began carrying central Florida's orange juice from here to New York in 1958. By 1966, the cargo tonnage moving through the Port had reached one million tons per year. Click here for the highlights of our Cargo History.

At the same time, Port Canaveral began playing its important role in America's space program. With the nation's premier launch facility at its doorstep, the Port became – and remains today – a critical link in receiving, tracking and retrieving space vehicles and components. Learn more about our Space History.

Our cruise history began in the 1970s when port-of-call ships discovered the attractions of central Florida, and our first homeported cruise ship set sail in 1982. Our first dedicated cruise terminal opened that year and we started the climb to our position today as one of the world's busiest cruise ports with more than 4 million revenue cruise passengers per year. See the highlights of our Cruise History.

Our Foreign Trade Zone was activated in 1989 and all the basic components were in place to build the Port that we have become today. But our history – a steady progression toward being the best at what we do – is still in the making. Enjoy the historical memories in a timeline of our first 50 years... then preview our plans for an exciting future.

Cargo History Highlights

1955 - First cargo calls – newsprint, petroleum

1958 - Tanker vessels begin transporting orange juice to New York

1960s - By mid-decade petroleum is 93% of total cargo; bulk cement imports 6%

1966 - Cargo tonnage reaches one million

1970s - Scrap steel and fresh citrus exports added

1980s - Key imports – citrus concentrate from Brazil and deciduous concentrates from Argentina and Chile; new commodity – solar salt

1990 - Solar salt processing plant opens at Port, driving salt imports up during the next decade and a half to more than 175,000 tons annually

2004 - Construction-related cargoes surpass petroleum as top cargo

2005 - Cargo tonnage tops 4.4 million

2006 - Cargo tonnage reaches new record high of 4.55 million; Establishment of regularly scheduled cargo service to the Caribbean (vehicle exports)

From Juno to the Shuttle and Beyond

From the beginning, when the Army, Navy and Air Force were competing to develop our satellite program, Cape Canaveral was the home of America's space launches and Port Canaveral was part of the support system. In January 1958, the Army successfully launched Juno 1 from the Cape, putting the United States in the space race hot on the heels of Sputnik (October 1957). Later in 1958, NASA was established as a government agency and the Cape began its transformation into a major launch base. In 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space, launched from the Cape aboard Mercury craft Freedom 7. His capsule was retrieved and returned to the dry land of planet Earth by vessels homeported at Port Canaveral.

In 1965, the Canaveral Lock which connects Port Canaveral to the Banana River was dedicated. It is the largest navigation lock in Florida, designed to allow passage of the huge Saturn rockets – boosters for the moon-bound Apollo program. For the past 30 years, the shuttle's solid rocket boosters, retrieved at sea, have been returned to the Space Center for reuse via Port Canaveral.

Now expanding beyond NASA and the Air Force, our nation's space launch program is evolving from military research and exploration into an important commercial transportation industry, routinely delivering domestic and international satellites into earth orbit and beyond. The Port's role remains important, as companies such as Boeing load their components aboard floating hangars for shipment to the Port. Some are off-loaded at the Navy Trident Submarine piers, while others make use of a Roll On/Roll Off ramp at the Port's North cargo piers, built to accommodate the large spacecraft hardware. From there, they are transported by truck to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport for final flight preparation.

As Brevard County's space industry grows, Port Canaveral is positioned to continue its critical support.

Cruise History Highlights

1970s - Served as port-of-call for ships delivering passengers to Central Florida attractions

1980 - Queen Elizabeth II makes port visit

1982 - Scandinavian Sea becomes first homeported cruise ship; Cruise Terminals 2 & 3 opened

1984 - Premier's Star/Ship Royale becomes first homeported multi-day cruise ship

1986 - Cruise Terminal 4 opens

1990 - Carnival homeports first ship at Port

1991 - First mega-cruise ship terminal (#5) completed; Port Canaveral becomes 2nd largest multi-day cruise port in continental North America

1993 - Port's first mega-ship, the Carnival Fantasy, starts sailing

1995 - Disney Cruise Lines executes marine terminal agreement

1996 - Cruise terminal 9/10 opens

1997 - Cruise Terminal 8 completed

1998 - First 7-day cruise service from Port on Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Crown; Disney Cruise Line's first ship, Disney Magic, sails

1999 - Disney Cruise Line's second ship, Disney Wonder, begins 3- and 4-day cruises

2000 - Royal Caribbean International homeports Sovereign of the Seas at Port; Disney Magic begins 7- day cruises

2003 - Largest homeported vessel to date, Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas, christened; maiden voyage of Carnival Glory from the Port

2006 - Carnival homeports its third ship at Port Canaveral; 5-day cruises are added


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Port Canaveral: Reaching Above and Beyond video
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2014 State of the Port PowerPoint Presentation

Tiger VI
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Cruise Terminal 1 Construction Cam
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Port Staff Coffee Chats
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Commission Meetings
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New Digital Magazine
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Digital Recreation Guide & Map - visit