Port of Galveston officials Wednesday celebrated the completion of an expansion to Cruise Terminal No. 2.
“This is something the port and the city can be proud of,” Chairman of the Wharves Board of Trustees Benny Holland said. “This will help the hotels and the restaurants and the whole community.”
The project cost an initial $13.2 million to expand the cruise terminal and was plagued by delays and cost overruns.
The cruise terminal has been in operation for about five months and is finally completed after the initial contract was awarded in October of 2014.
When the project began, the original Cruise Terminal No. 2 building was about 90,000 square feet.
With the new expansion, it now measures somewhere in the range of 150,000 square feet, Port Director Mike Mierzwa said.
Following the initial contract, the terminal underwent a redesign in the summer of 2015 and finally opened in June of this year.
In addition to expanding the original building, the expansion also included new walls being put in on much of the original building and new tile installed throughout the terminal.
With the terminal expansion complete, officials must find a way to redesign and pay for a wharf expansion necessary to dock the largest cruise ship to ever sail from the island.
That expansion, which was originally expected to cost in the range of $2 million, has run into its own issues with cost overruns.
Costs to build additional dock space and mooring bollards, which will be used to tie up Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, a 1,111-foot ship with capacity for 4,200 people, could eventually exceed $3 million, Port Junior Engineer Jeffrey Thomas said.
The port awarded a $2.2 million contract to J.W. Kelso in May 2015.
State law prohibits contracts from increasing 25 percent more than the winning bid, and the project already is near the threshold, leaving port officials to wonder about their next steps.
Azipods, the specialized propellers on Royal Caribbean ships, have caused the harbor floor in front of the dock to scour 15 feet deeper than anticipated. Port officials asked Houston engineering firm CH2M Hill to use sheet piling owned by the port to reduce the cost. However, engineers could not find a workable design.
Port officials now say the wharf expansion looks to be a multi-phased project.
“Kelso is going in and putting in new bulk sheet pile behind the old pile,” Mierzwa said. “We’re calling that Phase 1A. After that, we’re going in and putting concrete over it all.”
Phase 1A and the pouring of concrete — both of which are ongoing — will be completed under the current contract awarded to Kelso in 2015.
After the first phase, port officials will put out a new bid near the start of the year to begin Phase 2, which will include building a new deck and system to protect another area of the bank from scouring, Mierzwa said.
Liberty of the Seas arrived in Galveston a year ago.
Along with the tourism that cruising brings to Galveston, it also is vital to the port’s bottom line.
About 56 percent of the port’s $33.1 million 2015 operating revenues were from cruise business.
The port is home to three year-round Carnival Cruise Line ships, one year-round Royal Caribbean ship and a seasonal Disney Cruise Lines ship.