Texas Ports Rebound from Hurricanes, Remain Atop World Rankings

Despite suffering the ravages of Hurricane Ike last September, the ports along the Gulf Coast of Texas continue to rank among some of the top ports in the United States and the world. The Port of Beaumont has a $58 million capital improvement program and the Port of Houston approved almost $300 million in new projects at the end of 2008. Despite substantial damage inflicted by Hurricane Ike on the Port of Galveston, a revenue report released by the seaport showed that revenues are rebounding quicker than anticipated. According to the report, the Port of Galveston exceeded its projected revenues for the month of December 2008 by $300,000 with total revenues of $2 million. Annual revenues for 2008 were $20.8 million, which were only $500,000 short of the record revenues recorded by the port in 2007.  “We were fortunate to have had a successful month in terms of cruise traffic, wharfage, and parking operations. I don’t think anyone expected to come out ahead this quickly following the aftermath of Hurricane Ike but we did.” said Port Director, Steve Cernak, in a prepared statement. “While significant infrastructure challenges remain, the quick return to profitability will help as the port moves forward in dealing with our challenges.” The Port of Houston has grown in the past few years with the expansion of the Bayport Container Terminal, which will ultimately increase capacity to 2.3 million TEUs, an increase of more than 200 percent. PHA achieved its eighth consecutive year of record-breaking revenue in 2007. Figures for 2008 were unavailable at press time. In 2006, the port ranked first in the United States in foreign waterborne tonnage, second in the U.S. in total tonnage, and 10th in the world in total tonnage, according to Port of Houston information. The Port of Houston handles 69.6 percent of the containerized cargo market in the U.S. Gulf, and 95.5 percent of the containers moving through Texas. Much of that activity takes place at Barbours Cut Container Terminal, the largest container terminal on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The Port of Houston ranked 16 in the World Port Ranking in 2007 in total cargo volume with the Port of Beaumont ranking 53 and the Port of Corpus Christi ranking 54, according to the American Association of Port Authorities. The Port of Galveston is ranked sixth in the nation in terms of cruise passenger embarkations. The port handles more than 600,000 cruise passengers annually. The port’s Pelican Island facilities comprise a combination of undeveloped property, an active ship and rig repair facility, and liquid bulk operations. Less than two weeks ago, the ports of Orange and Beaumont each received $4 million economic recovery grants from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to support economic recovery for regions most severely affected by hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters occurring during 2008. The awards were the second supplemental appropriation approved by the Economic Development Administration, which is a bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The ports of Orange and Beaumont submitted projects to EDA in early January. The projects funded by EDA will equip the Port of Orange to handle petrochemical products under an innovative cargo transportation system; the project on the Port of Beaumont’s Orange County site will provide intermodal railroad connectivity. The Port of Beaumont is currently building a $22 million deepwater wharf. Previously, the port received a $1 million EDA grant to pay for construction of a bulkhead and roadway on the tract. In 2005, the port received a $3.12 million grant to build a permanent, heavy-duty access road linking the site to Interstate 10. In October, a two-story $5.4 million 27,000-square-foot building was completed to serve as headquarters for the U.S. Army’s 842d Transportation Battalion at the Port of Beaumont. The battalion is part of the command’s 597th Transportation Group, which is tasked with supplying military equipment and resources to sustain U.S. forces in action worldwide. The port is the largest military port in the United States, handling about one half of all the cargo shipped in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Port of Houston has about 100 steamship lines offer service linking Houston with 1,053 ports in 203 countries. It is also home to a $15 billion petrochemical complex, the largest in the nation and second largest worldwide. In 2008, it achieved its ninth consecutive year of record operating revenue growth increasing revenue by $7.6 million or 4 percent over 2007. “Since the labor union strike in Long Beach several years ago, many U.S. companies that import product from Asia have determined that they want another port so business won’t be interrupted again,” Barbara Cutsinger, marketing manager for the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, told CPN regarding one reason she thinks the Gulf Coast ports are growing. “From that time, more and more ships are coming through the Panama Canal and into Gulf Coast ports. We expect activity to increase and accelerate when the widening of the Panama Canal is complete is 2014.”