A coalition of trade associations and businesses going by the name “Keep Florida’s Economy Sailing” launched Tuesday and called on the Legislature to pass bills that would protect commerce at Florida seaports.
In part, HB 267 and SB 426 would supersede local ordinances that impinge trade or commerce at Florida’s 15 seaports. Keep Florida’s Economy Sailing members say it would protect seaports from potential economic harm in places such as Key West, which passed an ordinance to block cruise ships from docking.
“Florida’s ports are major economic drivers and have become global hubs for maritime commerce, and Senate Bill 426 (and its counterpart House Bill 267) are a vital protection for our deep-water ports in Florida,” said John Wells, chair of Caribe Nautical Services and a native Key Wester.
“Rightfully so, we have heard concerns that Key West’s referendums could open a Pandora’s box that threatens the continued success of our ports. That is why maritime commerce should be responsibly regulated by the state. I thank Sen. [Jim] Boyd and Rep. [Spencer] Roach for their good bills and look forward to supporting them this Session.”
Other coalition members include the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Florida Harbor Pilots Association and Historic Tours of America.
Representatives from each group harped on the importance of passing the preemption.
FRLA President Carol Dover said the Key West ordinance threatens the livelihoods of hospitality workers in port areas.
Florida Harbor Pilots Association president Ben Borgie said the proposal “empowers the ports to operate unencumbered” by ordinances that “make port operations unpredictable and threaten port investments.”
And Historic Tours of America president Edwin Swift III said the bills could spare his industry further damage as it recovers from the “brutal wake-up call” of the pandemic.