In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, the Port of Houston Authority is now open on a limited basis. Overall, the port authority facilities and property have had limited negative impact due to the storm. Two factors will facilitate the PHA in operating at full capacity. One is based on the need for permanent electricity. The other factor is PHA receiving clearance by the U.S. Coast Guard. PHA was granted clearance for all of its facilities late this afternoon. Normal operations are expected toresume tomorrow, Thursday, Sept. 18, pending restoration of electrical power.
Hurricane Ike had the largest impact on PHA employees who live in the outlying areas. The welfare of PHA's employees, customers and neighbors is its first concern and PHA is empathetic to the personal impact of a natural disaster. PHA has continued to operate over the past five days with a limited staff. All PHA employees have been asked to return to work tomorrow.
Today, the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port for Houston-Galveston opened the Houston Ship Channel with restrictions. PHA is currently working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local members of Congress in assessing damages and identifying the amount of federal funds needed to restore the Houston Ship Channel to its full depth and width. The PHA is also working with all of the ports in the Texas Gulf region, including Corpus Christi, Beaumont, Brownsville, Freeport, Galveston, Houston, Port Author, Texas City, as well as ports in Louisiana. Based on preliminary assessments, the damages to navigation projects in the Texas Gulf region as a result of Hurricane Ike and other storms in 2008 could be more than $1 billion.
PHA regrets the impact that the hurricane has had on the Port of Galveston and our prayers are with our colleagues and their families. PHA was asked by Carnival Cruise Lines to receive cruise ships at the new Bayport Cruise Terminal since Galveston's Cruise Terminal is not operable at this time. It was PHA's goal to accommodate Carnival Cruise Lines to keep the cruise business in the Texas region operating. Moreover, the PHA is happy to be able to return passengers who are on cruises for disembarkation in Houston on Thursday, Sept. 18, and Friday, Sept. 19. For now, PHA will be operating Carnival's Conquest and Ecstasy cruise ships on Saturday, Sept. 20, and Sunday, Sept. 21.