The Port of Galveston is many things to different people. For the men and women who work on the waterfront, it’s a source of income. For millions of cruise passengers, it’s the gateway to vacation adventures.

Many are drawn to the waterfront for its history, restaurants, attractions and maritime activity. Still, others see the port as a robust economic engine that generates jobs, attracts visitors and stimulates economic growth and sales tax for the city of Galveston.

The Galveston County Daily News has given me the opportunity to share with you information about these and other interesting Port of Galveston topics in regularly published columns. If you have a suggestion for a column, please email media@portofgalveston.com.

In this first column, I’d like to give you an overview of the port and its business. As port director for the last year and a half, my top priority has been to put the port on stronger financial footing and to continue building a team of professionals who share my goal of making our operations more profitable and efficient.

That focus is paying off as we see growth in all areas of our business. Below are our 2019 forecasts based on current activity:

• 295 cruise ship calls, the highest number since we first began home-porting cruise ships in 2000

• 1.2 million cruise passenger embarkations, breaking the record of almost 1 million embarkations set in 2018

• Port-operated cruise parking revenue to increase by 14 percent over $7.6 million in 2018

• More than 150,000 short tons of general cargoes (mostly wind energy), a 20 percent increase over 2018

• More than $3 million in lay dockage, an increase of 40 percent compared to 2018

• A record number of more than 1,000 combined cruise, cargo and lay vessel calls, up from 840 last year

Since 2018, the Port of Galveston has increased its net revenue significantly by reducing expenses, making our operations more efficient and finding new revenue sources.

What do these strong financial numbers mean for the port and the community? Business growth stimulates more direct and indirect jobs, spending and sales tax revenue for the city.

Growing revenues will allow us to make long-deferred infrastructure improvements, which will open up new business opportunities and even more growth. How and when we make these improvements will be guided by our new strategic master plan. Based on extensive research and public input, this plan will chart the port’s future for the next 20 years.

The plan, currently in draft form, assesses the state of the port’s infrastructure; cargo, cruise and commercial market opportunities; and financial analysis and forecasting. Additionally, it offers ideas to develop the waterfront, grow our business and improve the quality of life for island residents.

We, the port staff and the Galveston Wharves Board, are the stewards in a long line of leaders who have guided this economic engine and island treasure for almost 200 years. I’m proud of the progress we’re making.

Rodger Rees is Port of Galveston port director and chief executive officer.

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