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Developing the port while controlling surge effects

Before widening and deepening the main harbor channel, the Canaveral Port Authority wanted to avoid any negative surge effects on ships moored in the harbor.

Port Canaveral


For four years, beginning in 1951, dredging was carried out to create a new port on the Atlantic coast of Florida. The new port was dedicated in 1953, commercial shipping started in 1955, and cruise traffic began in 1964.

Today Port Canaveral is one of the world’s busiest cruise ports. Its six cruise terminals serve ships from the Carnival, Disney, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean International cruise lines. In addition, millions of tons of cargo move through the each year, including cars, lumber, steel plate, cement, and frozen orange juice.

To improve navigation safety and reduce surge effects in the harbor, the Canaveral Port Authority wanted to widen and deepen the main harbor channel. Before doing so, the Authority wished to ensure that these changes would not generate any adverse surge effects on ships moored in the harbor.


In 2011, the Canaveral Port Authority retained Mott MacDonald to conduct a study of surge effects in the port, both before and after the proposed deepening project.

Port Canaveral experiences complex surge effects when a “parade” of several large cruise ships leave the harbor in succession. This is especially true on windy days, when ships must move faster to maintain their positions in the channel.

Our simulations included a series of three cruise ships leaving the harbor in succession under complex, speed, drift, and track combinations, and subsequent surge wave sloshing on a harbor-wide basis. Hydrodynamics and forces were analyzed for ten berthed commercial ships (cruise ships, tankers, Ro-Ros, container ships, and bulk carriers) and ten noncommercial ships (submarines, combat ships, and mission service vessels).


Results of the analysis showed that the proposed widening and deepening would lessen rather than increase the surge effects. The results made it possible to target the most cost-effective locations for any future harbor modifications in order to reduce these effects.

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