Florida Senate Passes Bill 426 – State Preemption of Seaport Regulations Aimed at Overturning Key West Cruise Restrictions

Today, after a few months of committee discussions and numerous amendments, the Florida Senate passed CS/CS/CS/SB 426: State Preemption of Seaport Regulation bill filed on January 5, 2021 by Senator Jim Boyd.

On Wednesday, the senate discussed the bill for nearly five minutes before tabling the the bill for a third reading.

Back to today, CS/CS/CS/SB 426: State Preemption of Seaport Regulation was read for a third time and proceeded to a vote without further debate. The Florida Senate passed the bill by a margin of 25 YEAS and 14 NAYS.

Florida Senate Vote History

  • 3/10/21 – Transportation Committee – 6 YEAS, 2 Nays
  • 3/24/21 – Community Affairs Committee – 5 YEAS, 5 Nays
  • 4/14/21 – Rules Committee – 12 YEAS, 5 Nays
  • 4/22/21 – Full Senate – 25 YEAS, 14 Nays

This bill aims to circumvent the restrictions put in place in Key West. During the proceedings so far, it has been abundantly clear the bill is directly targeting Key West, with numerous amendments to surgically remove other potential Florida ports along the way to target just one.

During the November election, Key West voted heavily in favor to place restrictions on cruise ships, effectively banning larger cruise ships such as the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder. The vote placed the restrictions into the Key West charter, but the cruise industry shutdown left enforcement up in the air. Cruise lines, including Disney, still have voyages with stops in Key West available suggesting they felt the vote was not final and it continues to look like they are going to wait out the legislative process before making any decisions.

Following today’s passing, the bill was handed over from the Florida Senate to the Florida House. We will continue to monitor this bill as it progresses through the process in Tallahassee.

5 Replies to “Florida Senate Passes Bill 426 – State Preemption of Seaport Regulations Aimed at Overturning Key West Cruise Restrictions”

  1. Arlo Haskell

    This is a very sad day for the people of Key West. We hope Disney will respect the will of our voters, no matter what happens in the Florida Legislature. We hope those who sail on Disney will not support any itineraries that include Key West.

    When the Magic and the Wonder first started sailing here around 2000, they were the first of a larger class of ships that fishermen noticed were doing serious damage to our ecosystem. Because we have such a narrow and shallow channel, these larger ships stirred up far more silt and sedimentation from the bottom, creating chronically murky ocean conditions that are incompatible with healthy coral growth. This problem was extensively documented by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and other scientific findings on these large-vessel impacts were collected in a major 2005 report by Thomas Murray & Associates, which noted that the channel, formerly teeming with life, now resembled “a blasted moonscape.” But nothing was done and these ships continued calling on Key West, and were soon followed by even larger ships, which did even more damage. Today more than 90% of our coral reef is dead or dying.

    We still want cruise ships in Key West. We just want smaller ships that won’t kill off what’s left of our reef.

    Disney has a lot to be proud of with its environmental record. In areas where the water is deep enough to accommodate them, Disney ships set a good example for all cruise lines. But in Key West the channel is just too shallow, and those same ships do enormous damage.

    Please, if you sail Disney: tell them you won’t buy tickets for any trip that includes Key West. Please come and visit us on a small ship, or drive down, or fly. We want you to visit, and we want you to have a good time. But we need to protect what makes this place so special.

  2. Jo

    Isn’t tendering in a simple solution. I was actually quite surprised the first time I was on the Magic to Key West and could just walk off the ship. In the past, when I would have a stop in Key West, for instance, on Holland America, we would always tender in.

    1. Scott Sanders Post author

      Yes, I believe this would be a potential workaround, but I’m not entirely sure. The only issue I could see is the restriction on the number of passengers permitted ashore. One of the three referendums placed a limit on persons disembarking from cruise ships to a total of 1500 persons per day. This would likely apply to any passengers tendering.

  3. Walt

    The sad thing about this is that the area has been devastated by past hurricanes reshaping the landscape and further damaging the coral reef. This will also hurt the marine life and fishing industries. Greed is a terrible thing. As much as I love Key West I won’t be going there by ship. Tendering is a good idea, but the area to do so I think is too small to accommodate a lot of activities.


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