by Roger Rees Port Director/CEO of Port of Galveston

Do you ever wonder what’s on the cargo ships docked at the Galveston Wharves? Our import/export cargo business generates a steady flow of essential goods into the U.S. and American-made cargo to countries around the world.

We move cargos that feed the world, power U.S. homes and businesses, supply American farming and construction, and more.

Our robust cargo business fuels commerce and local jobs, boosting local, state, national and international economies. In fact, our cargo activities touch every continent except Antarctica.

Yes, we Have Bananas (and Melons)

Bananas and melons (when in season) arrive weekly from Guatemala. In 2019, we imported more than 1 billion pounds of fresh fruit. From here it’s distributed by refrigerated trucks all over North America, including to our own Galveston County grocery stores.

The Port of Galveston is ideal for efficiently transporting perishable goods like fruit because we’re 45 minutes from open seas and just 10 minutes from Interstate 45.

Ships sail back to Guatemala loaded with huge rolls of American-made paper used to make shipment boxes for the fresh fruit.

Wind Powers Jobs & Revenues

Galveston Wharves helps fuel the state’s booming wind energy industry by importing wind turbine sections. In turn, this clean-energy industry generates port revenue and third-party jobs for union workers, stevedores, ship line handlers, ship pilots, railway workers and more.

As the state’s wind power industry has grown, so has the amount of wind turbine cargo we move. In 2018, we moved 1,666 pieces. In 2019, it totaled 2,200.

Imported from Spain, South Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia, these huge white cylinders and blades are moved by rail to wind farms in Texas, Oklahoma and beyond.

In 2021, American-made blades will come from Colorado by rail to be loaded onto barges at our port. The 80-meter-long blades will be barged up the Mississippi River to wind projects in the Midwest because the route’s rail infrastructure can’t accommodate the larger blades.

Feeding the World

We export American beans and grains like wheat and sorghum to countries around the world, including Egypt, China and Mexico. The produce comes from America’s Heartland by rail and is loaded into ships.

Last year we moved 647,000 tons of grain and beans. Exports should pick up next year after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredges the federal portion of our ship channel to its regular 45-foot depth to accommodate larger grain ships again.

Agricultural Fertilizer for American Farmers

We import 1 billion pounds of urea-based fertilizer from Qatar in the form of white pellets that are loaded onto rail cars destined for farms in Texas and the Midwest. Classified as non-hazardous for transportation, the fertilizer is not to be confused with solid ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

Roll-on/Roll-off

Large, box-shaped ships called Ro/Ro vessels (short for roll-on/roll-off) bring European-made luxury cars and heavy equipment for farming and construction to Galveston, where they are processed and moved by rail and truck across the U.S. Under a federal contract, we also export and import vehicles and personal household goods for U.S. military personnel on overseas assignments.

Non-Cargo Revenue Generator

When cargo ships aren’t in port, our docks generate revenue with lay ship calls. Ships dock for a few hours or a few days for services ranging from crew changes, restocking and refueling to Coast Guard inspections and repairs. The port has 18 berth spaces to accommodate lay vessels of various sizes.

The port generates revenue based on the size of the ship and the amount of time the ship is docked here. We’ve steadily grown our lay dockage revenue from $2.2 million from 248 ships in 2018 to $3.4 million from 377 ships in 2019.

In September we broke our 2019 record so could top $4 million in total lay ship revenues in 2020.