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By Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves Port Director and CEO
Tis the season for giving thanks. It’s the time of year when we reflect on the past year and gather with friends, family and co-workers to celebrate. When I look back on this year at the Port of Galveston, I’m grateful for many things, including our strong financial performance, progress with master plan projects, and the support of our staff, board, City Council and community.
Financial Performance Fuels Growth
As a self-sustaining city entity with no taxing authority or city funding, we rely on our revenues, grants and bonds to maintain and expand our assets to grow our business.
Our cruise business, which generates about 60 percent of port revenues, has made a phenomenal recovery. We’ll set new revenue and passenger records this year, thanks to the opening of our third cruise terminal in late 2022, expansion of our cruise parking business and our growing popularity as a cruise home port.
As a result, we expect to end the year with as many as 1.5 million cruise passengers, about 360 cruise sailings and a 12 percent increase in operating revenues. We leverage cruise revenues to fund major capital projects and other improvements throughout the port.
The port’s strong and steady financial performance has opened doors for other opportunities, including $43.3 million in state grants for capital and special projects and $50 million in revenue bonds to fund major improvements to our oldest cruise terminal at Pier 25.
Major Projects Moving Forward
Thanks to our financial reserves, grants and bond funding, we’re advancing major cargo and cruise projects to exponentially grow our business. This is great news for our community, the city of Galveston and the tens of thousands of people who work on the waterfront.
We’re expanding and improving the West Port Cargo Complex with a $36 million grant and $14.1 million in port cash reserves. Construction will start in 2024 to build retaining walls in front of two little-used slips and build a 1,340-foot-long berth. The second phase, still to be funded, will involve filling the slips and paving the area to add about 14 acres for cargo operations.
Cruise Terminal 25 is getting a much-needed, major makeover before the newly built Carnival Jubilee arrives in December. The interior and exterior improvements are being funded largely with revenue bonds. Long-time port partner Carnival Cruise Line will reimburse the port for more than 80 percent of the costs through a new operating agreement signed this year.
State grants also are helping the port fund the fourth phase of its 2-mile-long interior roadway and to rehabilitate the 25th Street skywalk over Harborside. Both will improve traffic flow, accessibility and safety.
Another big project, expected to kick off next year, is construction of a fourth cruise terminal at Pier 16. MSC Cruises, a leading international cruise line, has expressed interest in operating at the terminal, which would be built by converting a cargo warehouse to a cruise terminal.
Grateful for Partnerships and People
We can’t do these big projects without strong partnerships with public and private entities. I’m grateful for all the people who believe in the port and help us deliver our mission. There’s not space to list everyone individually so I’ll list them by groups:
Last but certainly not least is the port staff. This dedicated, hard-working group of 116 people achieves the work of a staff twice its size. All the departments work well together and are ready to take on any challenge or project, no matter how big. This can-do attitude and teamwork make the port successful and a great place to work.
From my family to yours – wishing everyone a happy holiday season.