The following is the text of a news release from the Port of Houston Authority:
(HOUSTON) — Total tonnage for April grew by 23 percent, with 4 million tons crossing the Port of Houston Authority's docks, Executive Director Roger Guenther reported at today's Port Commission meeting. The strong cargo activity for the month was reflected in loaded container units growing by 46 percent over 2014 and steel imports growing 40 percent versus April a year ago.
Year to date, the port authority has handled more than 13 million tons of cargo, an increase of 11 percent for the year. Each category of general cargoes has shown solid growth — containers, steel, autos and other break-bulk commodities.
While import steel continues to exceed projections, up by more than 56 percent for the year through April, the port authority expects some leveling in May.
Loaded container units at the Bayport and Barbours Cut terminals are up for the year by 22 percent.
"This illustrates the efficiency of our operations as well as the importance of capital reinvestment in these facilities to strengthen the port authority's position and our region," Guenther said.
Proving that the port authority is indeed ready for bigger and better things to come, four super post-Panamax cranes, the largest ship-to-shore cranes ever built by Konecranes, arrived at Barbours Cut Container Terminal earlier this month.
After detailed planning, the meticulous operation of moving the cranes from the vessel to the wharf was successfully completed today, marking the beginning of a new era for the Barbours Cut terminal. In the coming weeks, these cranes will be tested and readied for operation.
"These new super post-Panamax cranes, an important part of a $700 million modernization project at Barbours Cut Terminal, will accommodate the significantly larger vessels that will be calling on our container terminals after the expansion of the Panama Canal," Port Commission Chairman Janiece Longoria said. "As international trade, primarily containerized cargo, continues to expand rapidly at port authority facilities, that means more jobs and economic activity for the region and state in support of PHA's mission."
The port authority also reported a record month in revenue. For the year, the port authority has generated $103 million in revenue, a 30 percent increase over this time last year. The port authority has added $51 million in cash flow, which will be put to work in enhancing facilities.
These funds support the port authority's capital improvement plan, which is aimed at expanding the service offering to customers. Guenther noted that future capacity needs will take a combination of cash flows generated as well as funding from other sources to sustain that growth in service offering.
The Port Commission today authorized the execution of agreements for a new $300 million interim financing program to support the capital improvement plan. The program was recently approved by the Texas Attorney General's Office.
Guenther stressed that the move is an interim solution. "We will continue to evaluate long-term funding strategies as we seek to generate economic return and prosperity for our community and region," he said.
Guenther also reported on the conclusion of a successful cruise season. Princess Cruises sailed the 3,080-passenger Emerald Princess out of Houston for 24 sailings and a total of 73,000 passengers. Norwegian Jewel made 28 voyages, with more than 71,000 passengers. The cruise season ended in mid-April. The next cruise season begins in mid-October. The cruise business continues to be an economic boost for the communities directly adjacent to the cruise terminal and the Houston region.
Demonstrating its commitment to maintaining an ongoing and meaningful dialogue with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Longoria highlighted the port authority's hosting of several high-ranking members, including Maj. Gen. Peabody, deputy commanding general for Civil Works and Emergency Operations, and Steve Stockton, director of Civil Works.
After a tour at Shell's Deer Park refinery, the delegation, along with Capt. Brian Penoyer, commander, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston, was provided a tour of the Houston Ship Channel, highlighting areas of particular importance and interest, including navigation safety concerns. The group observed large Aframax tanker vessels transiting an area of specific concern in the channel. Longoria noted that the Corps, at all levels, is actively engaged and pressing for an expedited action to improve navigation safety of this vital waterway.
Longoria praised the port authority's maritime academy program, which is in its sixth year. The past few weeks have marked graduations of the third class of seniors. One hundred thirty nine graduated from five academies representing four area school districts with 46 students graduating with honors. The valedictorian and salutatorian were in the maritime program at Jack Yates High School in the Houston Independent School District. Longoria cited the Port of Houston Partners in Maritime Education Program as an important resource in meeting the growing needs of the maritime industry.
Longoria also recognized that Friday, May 22, is National Maritime Day, a time to pay special tribute to the merchant marine, seafarers and to the benefits that the maritime industry provides this country and to all who live here. America's open seas have long been a source of prosperity and strength.
"We celebrate this proud history and salute the mariners and seafarers as well as this industry," she said.