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By Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves Port Director and CEO
I’m strongly optimistic about 2023. Thanks to the robust recovery of our cruise business, the Galveston Wharves is poised to make major advances with its capital projects and waterfront infrastructure renovations to bring one of this region’s major economic engines to its full potential.
Based on our 20-Year Strategic Master Plan, adopted by the board in 2019, we’re planning big improvements to expand our West Port Cargo Complex, grow our cruise business and repair decaying berths and docks.
Other 2023 priorities include the following:
A Big Year for Cruise
We expect to break passenger and sailing records with 362 sailings and more than a million cruise passengers. Contributing factors include our newly opened third cruise terminal, high passenger occupancy rates, and higher-capacity ships like Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and the brand-new Carnival Jubilee.
The Jubilee is scheduled to homeport at the Port of Galveston beginning in December. Now under construction, the ship will have a capacity of 5,374 passengers and 1,735 crew. It will be the port’s first LNG-fueled cruise ship, which aligns with the port’s environmental initiatives.
To accommodate the Jubilee and more passengers, we’re planning a multi-million renovation and improvement project at the 2-decades-old Cruise Terminal 25 (formerly CT 1). Work includes federally required improvements to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol facilities, two new gangways, expanded passenger and luggage areas, an additional escalator and another elevator.
We’re also looking to sign an agreement with MSC Cruises for a public-private project to build a fourth cruise terminal and 1,500-space parking garage at Pier 16. Currently occupied by Del Monte Fresh Produce, the warehouse facility will get a major remodel to be transformed into a 2-story cruise terminal with two gangways.
Current project estimates are $70 million for the terminal and $40 million for the parking garage. If all goes as planned, work will begin when Del Monte’s lease ends in 2024, with the first MSC ship sailing in 2025.
Beyond the Cruise Business
As regular readers know, our cruise business generates more than 60 percent of port revenues and helps fund critical capital projects and infrastructure improvements at our self-sustaining, citizen-owned port.
In my next column I’ll give you details about improvements at our West Port Cargo Complex, including filling an outdated slip to add acreage for cargo.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m optimistic for 2023. Years of planning, saving and relationship-building are beginning to yield results for our port. The best is yet to come.
As I mark my fifth anniversary this month as port director, I believe that we’re beginning to deliver on our vision to bring this port to its full potential for the benefit of our community and the region.