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Summer 2021 will go down in the Port of Galveston’s 196-year history as a momentous period of major milestones. Despite pandemic-related business disruptions and an estimated loss of more than $44 million in cruise revenues, the port moved forward with major Strategic Master Plan projects and set new business records.
On July 3 Carnival Cruise Line relaunched its U.S. cruise business from Galveston after a 15-month suspension. As the fourth most popular cruise port in the U.S. and only cruise homeport in Texas, we were honored to be chosen as the first U.S. port to host Carnival passengers, crew members and support staff.
Restarting our cruise business is great news for the Galveston region because it accounts for about 65 percent of port revenues, 29,600 jobs statewide and $125 million in passenger and crew onshore spending annually. As a self-funding operation with no taxing authority, the port relies on its revenues, grants and partnerships to pay for much-needed improvements.
While the port’s cruise business was put on hold, the port board and staff remained focused on moving forward with Strategic Master Plan projects grouped in five main areas:
MOVING DAY FOR RO-RO
In June we moved a major roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) tenant from Pier 10 to our West Port Cargo Complex. This is part of our plan to consolidate cargo operations to improve efficiencies and reduce truck traffic on Harborside Drive in the downtown area. The cargo complex provides direct access to major interstate highways and rail lines, making it an ideal location for our ro-ro, wind turbine components, grain and other cargos.
To prepare for the move, the port invested $2 million in site improvements, including paving, dock repairs, an equipment processing center, and an industrial wash pad for equipment cargo exports. The improvements accommodate large roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) cargos such as construction and farming machinery.
CRUISE TERMINAL MILESTONE
Relocating our major ro-ro tenant also opened up Pier 10 for construction of the $110 million Royal Caribbean International (RCI) cruise terminal, another major economic development project included in the port master plan.
Construction of this third cruise terminal will generate an estimated 400 Texas construction jobs and 400 local operations jobs. RCI is targeting completion in late 2022, when the Allure of the Seas begins sailing from Galveston.
NEW WIND CARGO RECORD
In May, the port set a new wind-turbine cargo record, importing more than 500 pieces, including tower sections, blades and nacelles.
We’re one of the few ports with the skilled labor, rail and roadway infrastructure to handle this huge cargo. We’ve also benefited from the addition of 17 acres of privately operated laydown area with rail service for wind components opened earlier this year.
Thanks to the support of our board of trustees, staff and business partners, we have not only weathered a challenging period but also emerged even stronger.