t today’s meeting of the Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority, Port Commission Chairman Janiece Longoria commented on the recent collision in the Houston Ship Channel, which resulted in a significant amount of bunker fuel being spilled near the Texas City Dike. Chairman Longoria lauded the U.S. Coast Guard, the Texas General Land Office, and other incident participants for their expert handling of containment and emergency response efforts. She also noted that the Port Authority’s Farnsworth fireboat was deployed to the response.
In her role as Chairman of the Board of Pilot Commissioners, Chairman Longoria commended the Houston Pilots and maritime industry representatives for working cooperatively, with goodwill, and on behalf of the best interests of port stakeholders as they reached an agreement for 2014, 2015 and 2016 pilot rates. The Pilot Board went on to approve the agreement at today’s meeting.
Additionally, the Port Commission approved a $68 million construction contract with Orion Construction L.P. for Bayport and Barbours Cut channel improvements. These significant dredging projects will begin, following issuance of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits and approval of its assumption of maintenance of the channels, Executive Director Roger Guenther reported.
The Port Authority’s monthly financial and cargo report for February 2014 shows solid results, and Guenther added that facility operations showed strong results during the first two months of the year. Year-to-date operating revenue is up $2 million, net operating income is up $2 million, and cash flow is up $2.2 million, after setting aside two non-recurring revenue events from early 2013, which caused an overall decrease in those categories.
“The cash flow realized from our operations is crucial as we continue to reinvest in our facilities to prepare for future growth,” Guenther said.
Steel tonnage for February totaled 502,000 tons, marking the first time since May 2012 that Port Authority facilities handled steel exceeding 500,000 tons. So far in 2014, the Port Authority has moved 904,000 tons, for a 14-percent increase over 2013.
Although year-to-date overall container volume is down slightly, the volume of loaded containers remains flat when compared to 2013. Container volume is expected to be very solid in March, Guenther said, with 3 to 4 percent overall growth in containers expected for the year.
Guenther thanked the Port Authority’s security team for all its efforts in attaining recertification to the ISO 28000 standard for security, following an external audit. The security designation for Bayport, Barbours Cut, and Manchester terminals now also includes the Turning Basin Terminal.
Finally, Chairman Longoria noted that March has been particularly busy, with visits from a number of important officials. The Port Authority hosted a briefing and tour for Congressman Bill Shuster, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Congressman Blake Farenthold, a member of the committee. Congressman Gene Green, Congressman Randy Weber, and Port Commissioners Clyde Fitzgerald and Theldon Branch also attended the briefing, along with Andy Taylor, Legislative Director for Congressman Michael McCaul. The group toured the Bayport Container Terminal and learned about the great value the Port of Houston brings to the nation, including nearly $500 billion in economic activity and 2.1 million direct and indirect jobs.
Chairman Longoria also hosted Congressman Pete Olson at the Bayport Container Terminal on March 10, giving him a first-hand look at the continuing expansion and growth at that facility.
Among legislative visitors last week were Congressman John Culberson and staff members, who were provided a briefing and tour on the M/V Sam Houston on Wednesday. During the tour, Commissioner Branch highlighted the port’s importance to the nation in terms of jobs, exports and tax revenue.
These visits with elected officials, and other important stakeholders, underscore the importance of the Houston Ship Channel and its impact on the region and nation as part of the global transportation system.