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On this Labor Day, let’s take a moment to recognize the thousands of men and women who work on the Galveston waterfront to keep our economy moving. We would not be the fourth most popular cruise port in North America or a major Texas cargo port without our dedicated maritime workforce.
They include the skilled union workers who move everything from containers of fresh fruit to enormous wind tower pieces, construction equipment and BMWs. And, of course, there are the ship pilots and line handlers who work around the clock to move ships in and out of Galveston Harbor.
On the cruise side, hundreds of onshore staff, including parking shuttle drivers, union baggage handlers, security officers, greeters, and check-in staff move more than 2 million passengers through our two terminals in a typical year as they board and disembark.
I also want to recognize our business partners, including stevedores, shipping companies, tenants, and, of course, the port staff.
The Port of Galveston fuels a maritime industry that generates more than 14,000 jobs to provide household incomes for thousands of families in our region. The Galveston Wharves at the Port of Galveston employs a staff of 90.
That’s one of the reasons why our Board of Trustees and staff worked so hard during the pandemic to sustain cargo operations and look for other opportunities like more lay ship calls to keep people working.
Business and Jobs Numbers Growing
With cruises and cargo ramping up in mid 2021, jobs are too. The port’s mid-year forecast projects 128 cruise ship sailings in the second half of 2021, with passenger capacities gradually increasing.
The port will also get a big jobs boost in 2022 when we open the new Royal Caribbean International cruise terminal. The $125 million project is creating an estimated 400 construction jobs and 400 operations jobs.
Galveston Wharves cargo tonnage was up 37 percent year-to-date for the first half of 2021 over 2020. With a total of 2.6 million tons for the first half of 2021, the port is on track to exceed its 4.3-million-ton total in 2020 and reach the highest annual total since 2016.
As a result, job hours are up. This year total union labor hours are on track to be up 25 percent over last year. And 2022 is forecast to be the best in years with 690,000 total hours, with 460,000 cargo work hours and 230,000 cruise hours.
The skilled and dedicated men and women of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) are the backbone of our waterfront.
Our three ILA groups have different jurisdictions and responsibilities. ILA Local 20 moves cargo on and off the ships. ILA 1504-8, chartered in 1933 by the ILA African American Warehouse Local, moves cargo once it’s off the ships. ILA Local 1665, historically known as the clerks and checkers, coordinates, logs and tracks cargo movements.
As we celebrate this Labor Day, join me in recognizing the contributions of our port’s union workers – and all the workers who have built and contribute to our nation’s strength and prosperity.
Rodger Rees is Galveston Wharves port director and chief executive officer.