Cruise ship docking at Key West encroaches on Navy waters
Has the battle over cruise ships changed tourism in Key West? Image via Safer Cleaner Ships.

Key West Celebrity Encroaching
'For any vessel over 1,000 feet, it would be practically impossible for them to fit into that area.'

On the same weekend residents rallied against three so-called mega-cruise ships entering Key West waters against voters’ wishes, one of the vessels mooring there Sunday was so big it encroached on waters reserved for Navy activity.

The Key West Committee for Safer, Cleaner Ships — which organized the weekend protest — posted photos to Twitter showing the 1,004-foot Celebrity Apex docking at Pier B, a privately owned cruise ship dock.

It can clearly be seen in the pictures that the ship’s rear extended well beyond a boundary line, designated by white-capped bollards, between Pier B’s space and the entrance to Naval Air Station Key West’s Truman Harbor.

Safer Cleaner Ships noted a “potential impairment of (national) security interests” since the ship was crossing into U.S. Navy “submerged lands.”

Florida Politics contacted Celebrity Cruises for comment but received none by press time.

Naval Air Station Key West spokesperson Trice Denny confirmed the cruise ship did indeed unduly cross into naval space, partially obstructing the entrance to Truman Harbor in violation of a submerged land lease.

Denny said Tuesday that her office drafted a letter to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

“It’s in the process of getting signed by the chain of command now,” she said.

The Sunday encroachment isn’t the first time a cruise vessel has crossed into military water while at Pier B. In 2014, the Navy reported similar violations to the Environmental Protection Department complaining cruise ships there “not only are in violation of the submerged land lease, but also obstruct the entrance to Truman Harbor.”

A 2014 Navy complaint included a very similar photo of a cruise vessel crossing the line into military waters. (Image via Safer Cleaner Ships.)

The Navy requested the state “take immediate action” to enforce the lease terms, which include that no vessels may block the harbor.

“Please note to safeguard our national security interests federal law … designates Truman Harbor a restricted area where privately owned vessels may only transit,” the letter said.

That was the last time NAS Key West issued a complaint to the state, but it wasn’t the last time it happened, Denny said.

“We were actually gearing up to do one in 2020, but then there was COVID, so there were no ships and we didn’t do it,” she said. “Now the ships are coming back.”

Key West residents voted in 2020 to place restrictions on the size of cruise vessels able to call on their port. The three ballot initiatives, which voters approved by more than 60%, resulted in amendments to the city charter barring vessels with 1,300 or more passengers from docking and limiting daily debarking to 1,500 people.

But within six months, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill containing an amendment by Republican Sen. Jim Boyd of Bradenton banning ports that receive federal cruise aid funds from placing strictures on cruise activities, including ship sizes.

The city has since been at work on an ordinance to again constrain the vessels, which locals say are tearing up local seabed habitats and killing coral reefs. A new study by the University of Miami supports those assertions.

The ordinance should reach a first reading next week, Key West Mayor Teri Johnson said.

Swift action will be needed to prevent a repeat encroachment, said Safer Cleaner Ships Treasurer Arlo Haskell, who took the photos.

The Apex is set to return later this month, and the similarly sized Carnival Dream is to arrive on Valentine’s Day, according ship-tracking sites CruiseMapper and

“Essentially, for any vessel over 1,000 feet, it would be practically impossible for them to fit into that area given how a boat sways back and forth in dock,” he said. “Larger ships going to that dock are not only going there against the wishes of the voters of Key West and contributing to all these environmental issues, but now according to the U.S. Navy, they’re impeding the international security mission of the station in Key West and compromising (our military) posture there.”

Denny disagreed.

“Could they pull the ship forward? Yes,” she said. “That particular ship, they had enough room in the allotted (space) in the submerged land lease to park it properly.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • Elliot Baron

    February 8, 2022 at 9:57 am

    Celebrity Cruise Lines is owned by Roal Caribbean, the same line that recently cribbed the satellite launch of a medical satellite, by sailing into the designated no-entry zone.

    They obviously have a gross entitlement issue and don’t care for anyone but themselves. It must be addressed.

    • Elliot Baron

      February 8, 2022 at 9:58 am

      ** scrubbed

Comments are closed.


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