One year ago, next month, my family and I arrived via the Bolivar Ferry into Galveston. In that short time, the Port of Galveston has instituted quite a few changes. Changes which have moved our Port into a new era.
We have a new staff with a new attitude and all of us are heading in the same direction. Port staff began the year by assessing ourselves and developing a new mission, goals and objectives, while at the same time started a re-branding effort.
To incentivize the achievement of these objectives, a new compensation philosophy based on performance was adopted and a salary increase for the first time in five years was given to port employees. Our old technology was making our jobs difficult. We began implementation of a new comprehensive ERP system, as well as automation of our parking lots and terminal access control.
One question became evident quickly. What was the port’s plan for the future? We solicited a global planning firm to develop a master plan. We anticipate our first internal workshop in January. Public meetings with the residents of Galveston and local stakeholders will be scheduled following this workshop. We encourage your participation.
What started out to be a break-even year is turning out to be one of the best years for the port, with profits approaching $6 million. While cruise and related business is up over 8 percent, our cargo operations are off the chart. Cargo tonnage is up almost 28 percent, with the number of ships calling up 15 percent.
Staff’s efforts to curb expenses, as well as our Construction and Maintenance department’s efforts to self-perform on capital projects, contributed to the bottom line. This is significant because it allows the port to develop the consistent bankable cash flow needed to provide the resources for infrastructure improvements. To further enhance our financial stability, Standard and Poor’s upgraded our bond rating from BBB to A-minus.
During November, the port celebrated its 193rd birthday. We welcomed the Carnival Vista, Carnival’s largest ship, with $3 million in improvements to Cruise Terminal No. 1. In December, the port welcomed its 10 millionth passenger, a member of a family of seven who drove from Norman, Oklahoma, for their first cruise ever. To top it all off, Royal Caribbean and the port signed a memorandum of understanding to build a $100 million cruise complex at Pier 10. This terminal will be homeport to the world’s largest cruise ships in 2021.
The city of Galveston will be a big winner from the increased revenue from hotel and sales tax revenues. While the port receives no tax revenues to operate, the cruise business at the Port of Galveston is responsible for almost 15 percent of tourists visiting our beautiful island. We are — and will continue to be — a vital economic contributor to thisa island.
Many of you may remember the Carpenter’s song written in the ‘70s “We’ve Only Just Begun.” Well, our innovative team has only just begun. The overwhelming support we’re receiving is an indication that it’s time for this port to veer in a new direction, and we now have a fully committed team to do it. I encourage you to contact members of the Port of Galveston team with your valued input. Together, we will steer this port full steam ahead into the future!
The staff and I want to thank our board of trustees, Chairman Ted O’Rourke, Vice Chairman Albert Shannon, Mayor Jim Yarbrough, Elizabeth Beeton, Richard Devries, Todd Sullivan, and our newest trustee Harry Maxwell. Without their support, it would have been much more difficult to achieve this progress in 2018. Happy New Year!