Galveston's Port Launches First Phase of $90M in Cargo Infrastructure Work

Member Updates,

A decommissioned grain elevator is being demolished to make way for more cargo handling and laydown acreage. Photo courtesy of Galveston Wharves.

The Galveston Wharves Board of Trustees has approved a $29.9 million construction contract to begin the first phase of an estimated $90 million in cargo infrastructure expansion and improvement work at Galveston’s West Port Cargo Complex. The board unanimously approved the contract at its April 23 meeting.

Texas Gulf Construction Co., Inc., is expected to begin work this summer to enclose and fill a slip at Pier 38/39. The port is funding the project with cash reserves, largely generated from cruise operations, according to Galveston Wharves Port Director and CEO Rodger Rees.

Work in the next two phases, expected to be awarded and begin this summer, will be a $50.1 million project to enclose and fill a slip at Pier 40/41. This work will be funded with a $36 million state grant and $14.1 million in port reserves.

The projects also will result in a new 1,426-foot-long berth from Pier 38/39 to Pier 40/41. All work should be completed in 2026. Future phases will include paving and other improvements.

“This is the first time in decades that the port has made an investment of this size in our docks. It demonstrates our commitment to a diversified revenue stream and to jobs growth by executing our 20-Year Strategic Master Plan,” said Victor Pierson, Galveston Wharves Board of Trustees chairman.

Port Director Rees added, “We’re working the plan, and the plan is working. As we continue to develop our cruise business, we’re generating cash reserves to fund long-neglected cargo infrastructure. It’s a great day in the port’s nearly 200-year history when we can invest almost $100 million to build up our waterfront. Since my arrival in Galveston, I’ve said frequently in neighborhood and community presentations that we have to leverage the cruise business to rebuild our cargo.

“Our fourth cruise terminal, opening in November 2025, will bring in an estimated $10 million-$14 million a year in additional revenues and hundreds of jobs. We’ll use these revenues, along with grants, to continue to improve our aged cargo infrastructure.”

Grain Elevator Coming Down

Another sign of progress will be demolition of a decommissioned grain elevator at Pier 30/33 this summer. Bids for the demolition are planned to be let in May, with work expected to be completed by the end of 2025.  The land will be used for cargo handling and laydown. The port plans to use concrete rubble from the demolition as a fill source for the slips, Rees said.

In all, the port will add almost 30 acres to its West Port cargo area by filling the two slips and demolishing the near-century-old grain elevator.

In 2023 the port moved more than 3.6 million tons of cargo, including bulk liquid, bulk fertilizer, roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) cargos, breakbulk and fresh fruit, as well as wind turbine pieces and other project cargos. As the port shifts away from grain and fresh fruit, it is expanding the handling of wind turbine pieces and ro-ro cargo, including new cars.

In 2023 the port expanded its foreign trade zone (FTZ) in the West Port Cargo Complex to import hundreds of wind turbine pieces in 2024.

Rees said that adding acreage, improving infrastructure and expanding its FTZ will allow the port to meet tenant demand to grow their ro-ro, project cargo and breakbulk cargo businesses. He added that the port will work closely with port tenants to minimize impacts to their cargo operations as construction progresses.