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Posted on: April 16, 2021

PORT OF GALVESTON WILL BE READY TO WELCOME CRUISE SHIPS, PASSENGERS

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No one knows exactly when cruise ships will sail again from the Port of Galveston, but I can assure you that we’ll be ready. 


As the fourth most popular cruise port in the U.S. and the only cruise homeport in Texas, the Port of Galveston is an important cruise industry partner. We’re closely monitoring progress as industry leaders, federal officials and Congress shape how to resume safe, sustainable cruising the U.S. 

Our staff has begun planning for a phased resumption of cruising as early as July, just to be ready. 


To date, we’ve voluntarily invested $100,000 in health and safety upgrades in our cruise terminals. We continuously monitor updates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as they develop the guidelines that ports will follow for cruise terminal, parking and other operations.


Just as we did in the pandemic’s early stages, we’re communicating and coordinating with local health authorities and county, state and federal agencies to ensure that this region is prepared for safe, sustainable cruising.


We’re also involved in regular discussions with cruise industry leaders to raise awareness among elected officials, the CDC and other decision-makers about the critical importance of getting the U.S. cruise industry sailing again.


Current indications are that cruises could resume by late this summer or early fall. I know that’s great news for millions of cruising fans and the thousands of Texans who benefit economically from the Port of Galveston’s cruise business.


Suspension of cruising from Galveston has resulted in huge losses for the Texas economy and families who rely on this industry. Based on historical economic impact annual statistics, loses are estimated at $1.2 billion in direct spending, 23,000 jobs and $1.6 billion in wages statewide.


Florida, the nation’s top cruising state, reported a $3.2 billion loss in the first six months of the pandemic, including almost 50,000 jobs paying $2.3 billion in wages, according to a September 2020 report from the Federal Maritime Commission.  


Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy estimated that the total impact of the 2020 and 2021 cruise sailings being canceled will result in more than $3.3 billion in lost domestic product.


While ports that rely solely on cruising have been hit hard by the suspension, the Port of Galveston is fortunate to have a more diverse business mix, including cargo and commercial operations.


We’re also fortunate to have a great staff, who have worked together to hustle for business and manage expenses. By going after more lay ship business last year, the port collected $6.1 million, a new record for the port. Cargo was another bright spot. Despite the pandemic, port staff and our port partners, including the International Longshoremen’s Association, moved 4.3 million tons of cargo through the port, generating $11.4 million in port revenues.

As a result, the Galveston Wharves maintains a positive cash flow. 


At a special Wharves Board of Trustees meeting this week, the board considered many of the topics I’ve covered in this column and discussed adjustments to the port’s 2021 budget based on past performance and business forecasts. The Finance Committee requested a budget reflecting phased-in cruise operations beginning in August and increasing through the rest of 2021.


The full board is expected to vote on April 27 to adopt a revised budget that reflects continued confidence in the port staff’s performance and in a conservative expectation that Galveston cruises will ramp up beginning in August. At this point, it is still unknown what to expect from the CDC moving forward.


Rodger Rees is Galveston Wharves port director and chief executive officer.

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