If 2020 taught us anything, it’s the importance of focusing on the things we can control and being adaptable. The Galveston Wharves board and staff did just that. As a result, our business has weathered the pandemic well.
Estimated total cargo was 4.2 million tons, 6 percent over 2019. We broke another record for lay ship revenue, earning more than $5 million, roughly 10 percent over 2019. This contributed to our positive cash flow for 2020 despite the suspension of our cruise business in March.
We begin 2021 with a number of unknowns, including:
- When will cruising resume?
- What will our cargo business look like?
- Will we start construction on a third cruise terminal?
- How will all of this impact the port’s 20-Year Strategic Master Plan?
I’ll share with you what I know today and give you updates in this column throughout the year.
While cruise operations remain suspended in the United States as a result of the pandemic, Galveston Wharves is working with cruise industry leaders and our local business and community partners for the safe, sustainable resumption of cruising in 2021.
With hundreds of thousands of jobs at stake nationally, a resumption of cruising with appropriate measures in place and with the support of health authorities will be critical to putting people back to work and fueling the greater economic recovery from the pandemic.
In Texas, Galveston’s cruise business generated $1.6 billion in cruise industry direct expenditures, $125 million in onshore spending and $1.8 million in wages statewide in 2019.
We expect grain, fresh produce and wind energy components to remain strong in 2021. We also hope to see European vehicle imports, slowed down by the pandemic, to pick up.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is doing dredging work at the grain berth, which will allow larger grain ships to visit our port and export more U.S.-grown grain and beans overseas.
Another improvement – additional acreage for storing wind energy components – should be completed soon. The stevedore that contracts with the wind energy manufacturers is working with city staff to finalize permits to complete the construction work at 37th Street and Harborside Drive.
THIRD CRUISE TERMINAL
The pandemic also impacted the schedule for the start of construction for a third cruise terminal. In 2020 Royal Caribbean asked for a 1-year extension on its option to build a $100 million cruise terminal at the Port of Galveston.
I’m optimistic that they’ll move forward with their plans. We will know by April, the extension deadline.
STRATEGIC MASTER PLAN
In 2020 our Engineering and Construction & Maintenance teams advanced more than a dozen maintenance and capital improvement projects throughout the port to fulfill the long-range vision laid out in the port’s 20-Year Strategic Master Plan and take care of long-deferred repairs.
We’ll continue to move forward with this work in 2021, while continuing to evaluate budgets and timing.
Now is not the time to retreat on the port’s long-term commitment to the citizens of Galveston. As a self-sustaining city entity, we will do all that we can to generate and reinvest revenue to create economic growth, jobs and other benefits for the Galveston region.