The Port of Galveston is easing back up to full strength, following substantial damage inflicted by Hurricane Ike on September 13, 2008. Recovery efforts have been speedy, in part due to quick action by the Port’s Board of Trustees in giving Port Director Steven Cernak temporary emergency authority to spend up to $55 million on repairs.
“We were able to act quickly on numerous recovery and cleanup initiatives,” said Cernak, “… but I would be remiss if I didn’t add that extensive additional capital investment will be needed to return the Port to its pre-hurricane capabilities.” Based on initial assessments, damage to the Port of Galveston and the Galveston County Navigation District will reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Cernak said that the Port handled its first vessel nine days after the storm and has since handled five more. Vessels and cargoes of all types have been accommodated. The first vessel to arrive following Hurricane Ike was the MV Triton Highway, a K-Line ship that kept to its original schedule with the assistance of longtime Galveston shipping agency Biehl & Co., demonstrating confidence in the Port’s ability to quickly rebound. The Triton Highway delivered approximately 790 metric tons of rolling stock and non-containerized cargo to the Port’s Pier 39-40 Terminal. That ship was followed on September 24th by an ECL chartered vessel, MV Medi Valencia, delivering a cargo of approximately 2,000 metric tons of windmill towers to the Port’s Pier 32-34 Terminal for Port customer Mitsubishi Power Systems, who also demonstrated great confidence in and support for the Port by keeping the vessel on schedule.
K-Line and Mitsubishi Power Systems were handled by local Galveston stevedore Suderman Stevedores, Inc., who rapidly mobilized following the storm to get back to business. Another regularly scheduled vessel, a Höegh Autoliners roll-on roll-off vessel, the MV Alliance New York, arrived on September 26th, delivering approximately 2,500 metric tons of rolling stock and heavy machinery to the Pier 39-40 Terminal and a Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics vessel, MV Nordborg, arrived at the Port’s Pier 10 Terminal on September 29th, handling approximately 2,250 metric tons of import and export roll-on roll-off and non-containerized cargoes, including 48 windmill blades. The Nordborg and the Alliance New York were handled by stevedore Ports America Texas. The MV Nordborg was followed by two more chartered vessels for Mitsubishi Power Systems, the MV Hyundai Treasure, which arrived on October 1st delivering approximately 2,200 metric tons of windmill towers to the Pier 32-34 Terminal, and a Chipolbrok vessel, MV Moniuzsko, which arrived on October 4th, delivering approximately 1,400 metric tons of Nacelles and other windmill power generator equipment to the Port’s Pier 39-40 Terminal. All of the vessel calls were supported by the I.L.A.’s ability to supply the necessary labor to work the vessels as they arrived.
The Port’s ability to receive and process roll-on roll-off and project cargoes delivered in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike was greatly assisted by the cooperation of the Texas Department of Transportation, whose local personnel expedited the evaluation of the highway system leading from the Port of Galveston through the Houston Metropolitan Area, including the Galveston Causeway Bridge, and the issuance of permits for heavy and over-sized truck cargo over the roads. Permit loads were moving out of the Port for delivery to customers as early as the 26th of September.
Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc., one of the Port of Galveston's long-established tenants, will be receiving its first weekly refrigerated vessel following Hurricane Ike, the MV Valencia Carrier, at its Pier 16-18 Terminal on Monday, October 6, just a little more than three weeks after the storm hit Galveston. Del Monte has worked tirelessly and diligently since Ike's arrival to assess damage, remove debris, clean up and repair its facility and get its Texas operations in Galveston back up and running, and to get all of the people connected with its terminal operations back to work in a short period of time.
Deputy Port Director Michael Mierzwa said, “The 14-foot storm surge that washed over much of the city flooded most of the Port’s ground level assets, infrastructure and cargo facilities, as well as the cruise terminals, leaving soggy sheetrock and floating debris in its wake.” He added, “Most facilities have re-opened, with some restrictions.” Permanent electric power and water services are expected to be in place the week of October 6 at most Port facilities.
The Port plans to have cruise ships return by the end of October, a little more than a month after Hurricane Ike struck. “We are repairing passenger gangways, rolling doors, restrooms, electrical systems, Customs and Border Protection booths, air conditioning ducts, sewage lift station motors, luggage X-ray machines and similar items,” said Mierzwa. “The second level embarkation area and the wharf at Cruise Terminal 1 were undamaged by the storm, but up to two feet of silt collected around the berths, reducing the maximum draft. An expedited dredging project will start soon.” Contractors overseeing Port and other Island infrastructure repair have brought the cruise ship Regal Empress to the Port of Galveston to serve as a hotel ship for workers involved in recovery and restoration efforts.
Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas gave a sign of affirmation to the Port of Galveston’s progress and their ongoing and collaborative efforts. “The Port’s quick response and generous resource sharing is an inspiration to recovery efforts throughout the City and community.” She added, “We will be happy to have cruise passengers back in a few weeks. Hotels and restaurants are re-opening, residents are returning, and our tourism infrastructure is already receiving guests.”
Vandy Anderson, a member of the governing board for the Galveston County Navigation District No. 1, echoed the Mayor’s sentiments. He described considerable damage to the approaches to Pelican Island Causeway Bridge, which connects Galveston to Pelican Island - home to Texas A & M University at Galveston, Port tenants Pelican Island Storage Terminals, Inc. and Gulf Copper Drydock & Rig Repair and other private vessel repair and offshore industry construction and support service facilities. He said, “The Port of Galveston was able to access their stockpile of crushed concrete, enabling reconstruction of the road base. The temporary repairs to the bridge allowed it to be back in use less than a week after the storm.”