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We’re making lots of progress at the Galveston Wharves, despite challenges related to COVID-19. I want to share with you five big things that we’re focused on to strengthen our business now and for the future.
Much of the progress I’ll touch on today is thanks to the dedication of our Wharves Board, staff and business partners who keep the Galveston waterfront running 24/7.
1. Financial Performance
The port is still operating in the black despite the suspension in March of its major revenue producer, the cruise industry. As a self-sustaining port with no taxing authority, this is a notable accomplishment.
Thanks to a fantastic first quarter, we have a positive operating cash flow of $1.5 million for 2020. We have focused on cargo/lay business on the revenue side while our expenses remain under our amended budget by almost 5 percent. We continue to fund our voluntary reserves. We have a team of conscientious staff members who are all working for the same goals.
2. Construction and Maintenance
Speaking of efficiencies, the port saves a lot of money by using our own Construction and Maintenance team instead of contractors as much as possible. They’re making progress on a number of major projects identified in the port’s 20-year Strategic Master Plan.
We have projects going across the port, including improvements to our internal roadway, upgrades at the West Port to prepare to move cargo operations from the East Port, and infrastructure improvements at the East Port to be ready for construction of the third cruise terminal.
3. Getting Ready for Cruise Ships
We’re making plans to prepare our two cruise terminals for the safe, sustainable return of our cruise business with touchless bathroom fixtures, plexiglass shields in customer service areas, enhanced air handling systems and more.
We don’t know exactly when cruising will resume from Galveston, but we want to be ready when it does.
4. Pelican Island
With more than 307 acres of greenfield land open for development, Pelican Island is our greatest opportunity for new growth. A liquified natural gas (LNG) bunkering company has expressed interest in a remote 200-acre tract on the northeast side of the island. If it comes to fruition, the small-scale, floating LNG production facility would provide clean-burning fuel to LNG-powered ships traveling to Galveston and the greater Houston region.
5. New Pelican Island Bridge
A keystone for economic development on Pelican Island is a new bridge. Replacing the 65-year-old bridge is estimated to cost $115 million. Local and state leaders are working to identify various sources to fund the total cost. A Texas Department of Transportation spokesperson will make a presentation on the structural condition of the current bridge at our Wharves Board meeting this Tuesday.
These are challenging times. While it’s not all smooth sailing, I want to reassure you that the Galveston Wharves staff and board are focused on doing everything possible to come out of this stronger than ever and prepared for future growth.