It’s easy to be overwhelmed by these challenging times as health care, government and business leaders struggle to get a handle on this pandemic and navigate a return to normal – or a new normal.
What inspires me each day is the dedication of everyone I see pulling together to keep the port working and focused on the future. I’d like to share 10 Galveston Wharves bright spots in the midst of this tough situation.
1. The Galveston Wharves has never been better positioned financially to weather this storm. In the last two years, we have set record revenues while reducing expenses, giving us more than $14 million in unrestricted reserves to draw on, if needed.
2. Our diversified business means that we continue to generate port revenues and jobs for our business partners, even when the cruise industry has suspended its operations.
3. Wind cargo remains strong. We set a new record in March by moving 417 wind tower sections totaling 24,063 tons. The previous record of 18,125 tons was in April 2019.
4. We also set a record with 106 total vessel calls in March, despite the interruption in cruise sailings. This includes 9 wind cargo ships, 36 cargo ships, 2 grain ships, 2 fertilizer ships and 53 lay ships.
5. All of this activity in March added up to 53,392 work hours for longshoremen, who are essential personnel on the waterfront.
6. Cruise industry forecasts look strong. A CruiseCritic.com poll of more than 4,600 cruise passengers indicated about 75 percent of respondents plan to take cruises as often or more often as they did before the pandemic, once it subsides. Cruise bookings on an online cruise booking marketplace are up in 2021 compared to 2019, according to an April 9 article in the Los Angeles Times. Restarting Galveston cruise sailings will be important to the island’s economic recovery, especially its tourism industry. Our cruise business generates about $115 million in annual local spending and more than 3,600 cruise-related Galveston area jobs.
7. Royal Caribbean representatives reassure me that they remain committed to building their $100 million cruise terminal in Galveston. Understandably, interruptions throughout the global economy have impacted the timing of major projects like this one.
8. Waterfront safety is the top priority for the Galveston Wharves and its business partners who help keep the port running. The International Longshoremen’s Association, ship pilots, stevedores, security contractors and others have implemented safety procedures to protect their workers.
9. Our infectious disease response partners have been remarkable in guiding us through the challenges of this ever-evolving crisis. We rely on guidance from the experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Coast Guard, Galveston County Health District, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and several more entities to keep everyone safe.
10. Improvement projects are moving ahead. Earlier this month we signed a contract for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to extend and deepen the final 2,500 feet on the west end of the Galveston Ship Channel. This will allow us to bring larger cargo ships into our west end cargo complex. The $13.4 million federal project includes a $3.3 million local match equally funded by the Galveston Wharves and Texas International Terminals.