This Year – and Ten Years from Now

Posted By: CAPT Bill Diehl, USCG (Ret.), P.E. Port Bureau News, Captain's Corner,

The great architect Frank Lloyd Wright was a visionary leader who was committed to his ideas. He felt the U.S. was unique and needed its architecture to reflect and celebrate its character. He also believed in focusing on the future, saying an “architect must be a prophet … if he can’t see ten years ahead, don’t call him an architect”. Wright complemented his innovation with commitment, believing a critical part of success was “unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen”. Because of this, his creations became celebrated as the first truly American architecture.

His ideas apply to us as port leaders. Our own local maritime history shows that those before us looked ahead to see a world class port in a 10-foot bayou—and made it happen. Like Wright, they believed a structure should complement its environment and function. These same qualities are as important now, in 2023, as they were in the past. We have the chance to make a difference in what our port will be this year – and ten years from now – by being willing to look ahead and by  strengthening our commitment to being a world class port.

Our Houston maritime industry has big projects underway, with more on the cusp of formation that we want to see happen. The biggest project in progress is Project 11 – the deepening and widening of the Houston Ship Channel. While work on the Galveston Bay Reach has been in progress for a little over a year, more “looking ahead” needs to be done to accomplish the locally preferred plan of seeing the full Houston Ship Channel ready for the vessels that will be calling in sooner than ten years.

Coastal protection is another significant component of our maritime infrastructure. Its potential impact, size, and cost are daunting, but we have an important opportunity to make a difference. As officials and engineers consider how to protect our region from natural disasters, we need to actively engage as thought leaders to achieve projects that not only protect our communities, but also the maritime interests that are the backbone of our economy. We need to look ahead to ensure concepts such as a gate system in Galveston and the proposed flood tunnels in Houston, work with – and not against – our Houston Ship Channel.

As important as our physical infrastructure is, port call optimization and digitalization should share equally in our vision. This is a global topic throughout the maritime industry. Digital transformation of port processes gives stakeholders real-time situational awareness of all the events taking place during a vessel call. It impacts the entire supply chain, and it will be pivotal for cost-efficiency and meeting environmental and emission goals of the near future.

How advocacy takes place may vary from person to person, but one thing is certain. It requires a steadfast commitment to staying informed and staying involved. The Port Bureau’s mission is to help you do just that. We have a “unremitting devotion” to collaboration in the maritime community, bringing together competitive partners for the betterment of the port region, and bringing you the information you need for informed business decisions. Your participation in the port community through membership with the Port Bureau and your engagement with fellow stakeholders will make a difference in what the port of tomorrow looks like and the success it generates in our region, our state, and our country.

We may not be changing the landscape of the U.S. architectural design world, but Frank Lloyd Wright’s words ring true because what we are doing is just as big. One way or another, we will be changing the landscape of the port region. What we do today does make a difference for tomorrow. Join the Port Bureau in “looking ahead” in 2023. Be committed. Be an advocate. See it happen.

About the Author

CAPT Bill Diehl, USCG (Ret.), P.E. is president of the Greater Houston Port Bureau. Utilizing his 30+ years of marine safety and port operations experience, he guides the Port Bureau in bringing members and community partners together for cooperation and collaboration to improve and advance the port region.