GALVESTON — The Port of Galveston’s governing board today will consider whether to hire a consulting firm — at a cost not to exceed $300,000 — to help make infrastructure improvements and attract cargo and other business to the west end of the public docks.

The Wharves Board of Trustees in a special meeting will consider entering into a professional services agreement with Laredo-based Phoenix Port Partners.

The staff request comes as the port seeks ways to cut costs as expenses rise and revenues decline. Belt-tightening has included limiting travel, a hiring freeze and not giving cost-of-living raises to the port’s 80 or so employees.

Phoenix Port Partners would have among its duties helping find financing for such projects as filling in slips and building piers so ships could tie up on the port’s west end.

Phoenix Port Partners also could help the landlord port find tenants, such as a container terminal operator for the west end, and make recommendations for infrastructure improvements, port Director Mike Mierzwa said.

While the proposition of hiring a consultant sounds pricey when the wharves board is imposing austerity measures, it has the potential to generate revenues, Mierzwa said. Phoenix Port Partners already has identified some potential tenants, he said.

“We think this is going to have the potential to pay off,” he said.

Timing is an issue. The port is pushing to fill the slips on its east and west ends before U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits expire next year, Mierzwa said.

It could cost as much as $50 million to fill the slips and build piers on the west end alone, he said. But the port only has about $18 million remaining from federal and state grants for such projects, Mierzwa said. And chances it could secure that kind of money any time soon are slim.

The port has projected operating revenues of $27.4 million this year, down $445,405, or 1.59 percent, compared with last year. Operating expenses for next year are expected to be $25.1 million, up $714,275, or 2.93 percent, compared with last year.

Among reasons revenues are expected to be down is the reduced number of grain ships calling at the port. Some of the rent payments tied to the revenues generated by tenants also are down, officials said.

The port has about $55 million in debt, largely from developing and expanding its two cruise-ship terminals.

The port has long sought container cargo. But such efforts have generated concern among residents who fear that work handling containers — semitrailer-sized boxes filled with everything from TVs to tennis shoes — would generate too much truck traffic, pollution and noise. But unlike the east end of the port, the west end is away from neighborhoods and wouldn’t require sending railroad flatcars carrying containers through tourist areas.

The port would seek specialized container cargo and capitalize on the widening of the Panama Canal, Mierzwa said.

Phoenix Port Partners could help the port secure such business, Mierzwa said.


At a glance

What: Wharves Board of Trustees special meeting

Why: To consider spending up to $300,000 on a consultant to develop west end business

When: 1:30 p.m. today

Where: Eighth floor, Shearn Moody Plaza, 123 25th St. 

 

 

Reach reporter Laura Elder at 409-683-5248 or laura.elder@galvnews.com.

Locations

(3) comments

Centerpointe Moderator

Is the $300K all or nothing? Is it not possible for Port of Galveston to get a preliminary feel for their options from an initial assessment of more limited scope, moving forward with additional measures only if the initial 30,000-foot view makes sense? For the past several years now, I've been reading stories about other Texas ports aligning themselves and gearing up for the Panama Canal expansion. It would be a shame for Galveston to spend all that money only to find out that they are too late to the party to make playing catch-up worthwhile, if that did prove to be the case.

1960BOI
Marine One

The Port of Galveston never even made the news pre-cruise line industry. So their lack of leadership and vision lost them yet another cruise line deal. What's new? So other ports actually know how to run a business, and to generate new business. Hmm.
Galveston Islands economy and success rely heavily on our port. I think too many have become comfortable and complacent in doing nothing, yet cashing paychecks.
New leadership with goals and a vision of success are needed, not another excuse to throw even more money they can't afford into the bay.

Rich Gray

The Galveston port needs help, no doubt about that.

A few weeks back there was talk of a proposed cruise/cargo facility on Pelican Island. The facility makes sence to me, the location did not. In addition to the cost of the facility I can't help but think a new Pelican Island bridge would be in order but I never saw that addressed by anyone. Why can't this joint use facility be built on the west end of the port?

Also, let us not forget the debacle of an agreement between the Port of Houston and Galveston for the cargo facility at Pier 10 years ago. It was never used to full capacity (or any where even close) and the four cranes were FINALLY removed after years of nonuse. I believe that is a ro-ro facility now which is quiet as compared to a container operation.

As for the new Panama Canal expansion, is the Galveston harbor/channel deep enough for the draft of these super ships? Will the channel have to be dredged to accept these vessels adding yet more expense?

Let us do our best to keep what grain and bulk shipping business we have, put the proposed cruise/cargo facility at the ports west end and campain for more ro-ro business. Why can';t we become the main go to ro-ro facility on the gulf? We can currently handle those ships and it would be a much quieter operation than a container port.

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