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By Rodger Rees
Galveston Wharves Port Director and CEO
If you take a cruise or the Bolivar Ferry, thank a mariner. If you shop, fuel your car or buy groceries, you can thank a mariner. As we prepare to observe National Maritime Day on May 22, let’s take a moment to recognize the critical work of the men and women who crew all forms of civilian vessels, from tugs and barges to the world’s largest cruise and container ships.
Congress established National Maritime Day as a U.S. holiday in 1933 to recognize the United States Merchant Marine. The term merchant marine refers to either U.S. civilian mariners or to civilian and federally owned merchant vessels. They engage in commerce or transportation of goods and services in and out of U.S. navigable waters.
The holiday has evolved to include the entire maritime industry. Each year, ceremonies and celebrations throughout the country recognize Maritime Day and the people our maritime nation depends on.
The Galveston maritime community invites you to join us in celebrating at a commemorative event at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, May 18. Dignitaries and members of the maritime community will gather at the Galveston Seafarer’s Center, 221 20th St., to honor our maritime industry and our mariners.
The multi-billion U.S. maritime industry is critical to national security, commerce and transportation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2020 the U.S. imported $2.4 trillion in goods and exported $1.4 trillion, largely by water. Our country imports everything imaginable, from cell phones and toys to passenger cars and crude oil. We also export a range of cargos, including grains, cars, crude oil and soybeans.
Closer to home, Port of Galveston cargo operations are a diversified mix that includes bulk liquids, bulk fertilizer, wind and general cargo, roll-on/roll-off cargos, and new cars.
In 2021, the port moved almost 4.9 million tons of cargo, a 14 percent increase over 2020. The port is diversifying its cargo mix this year and expects to move thousands of containers, helping to ease global supply chain bottlenecks.
Port of Galveston’s cruise, cargo and commercial activities have a $2.1 billion economic impact for Texas and generate more than 14,000 jobs. Combined, Texas ports support 1.8 million jobs, as well as $102 billion in personal income and local consumption statewide.
Galveston’s maritime industry supports a wide range of businesses and jobs, including ship pilots, ship crews, barge and tugboat crews, union workers, shipping stevedores, onshore cruise staff, truck drivers, railroad workers, construction workers, administrative staffs and many more.
Galveston is also home to one of the nation’s six state-operated maritime academies training the next generation of mariners. The young men and women attending Texas A&M Maritime Academy are the future of the industry and the future leaders in the maritime industry, both at sea and ashore.
They will work on vessels and in organizations, including ship owning/operating companies, pilot associations, tugboat companies, private marine terminal operators, and public port authorities like the Galveston Wharves.
One of the highlights of a maritime academy cadet’s education is training at sea. Later this month approximately 230 cadets from Texas A&M Maritime Academy and other maritime academies will embark on a 2-month training voyage onboard the Training Ship Kennedy. They leave Galveston on May 29, docking in Charleston, S.C.; Reykjavik, Iceland; and New York City before returning to Galveston on July 28.
Let’s wish these mariners-in-training and all mariners smooth sailing and thank them for their contributions.