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Our Galveston Wharves board and staff rose to the challenges of 2020, demonstrating the port’s financial and operational strengths. Thanks to their fortitude, focus and hard work, we set new performance records and beat budget forecasts.
By generating stronger-than-expected revenues and managing expenses, we expect to outperform our revised COVID budget with a positive cash flow of more than $1 million from operations. This is remarkable when you consider that cruising, our major revenue source, has been suspended since March.
Our efforts to build up lay ship and cargo revenues have paid off. We expect to set a new all-time record of almost $5 million in lay ship revenues and to beat our 2019 cargo numbers with strong performance in grain, wind energy components and fresh produce.
In addition to keeping waterfront commerce moving, the port made progress on a number of major construction and maintenance projects, including the West Port Cargo Complex, cruise terminal health and safety enhancements, the interior roadway and channel dredging.
CARGO: Total cargo for 2020 is forecast to be about 4 million tons – roughly 100,000 tons over 2019. Grain exports doubled, and fresh produce imports grew by 8 percent. We also set a new port wind energy record by moving 2,261 components.
CRUISE: We’re been working with the cruise industry and others for the safe, sustainable return of cruising in 2021. We’ve invested more than $73,000 in health and safety enhancements at our two cruise terminals in preparation for cruise activity ramping up next year.
As the fourth most popular cruise port in the U.S., we were on track to set new records in 2019. In the 10 weeks before cruises were suspended nationally in mid-March, a total of 228,000 cruise passengers boarded 69 ships. I’m confident that we’ll return to these levels.
PARKING & TRANSPORTATION: With our cruise parking business dormant, our Parking and Ground Transportation Department was busy opening a customer service office on the first floor of Shearn Moody Plaza, standardizing ground transportation rules and regulations, and reaching an operating agreement with rideshare operator, Lyft.
LAY SHIPS: Our staff estimates a record 450 lay ships, generating over $5 million in revenues from otherwise open docks this year, breaking our 2019 record of $3.4 million in dockage revenues from 377 ships.
ENGINEERING, CONSTRUCTION & MAINTENANCE: Our Engineering and Construction & Maintenance (C&M) teams advanced more than a dozen maintenance and capital improvement projects throughout the port to fulfill the long-range vision laid out in the port’s 20-Year Strategic Master Plan and take care of long-deferred repairs. C&M logged more than 47,000 work hours and completed more than 640 work orders.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Our strong focus on grants was rewarded with $5 million in funding for road improvements from the Texas Department of Transportation and a $1.7 million port security grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
On the environmental conservation front, we implemented a number of waste reduction initiatives as part of our voluntary Green Marine environmental certification, which is expected in 2021. We’re also partnering with the Galveston Bay Foundation on shoreline and oyster reef restoration efforts.
I’m proud of what we accomplished in 2020 and am looking forward to a very positive new year. Wishing you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2021.