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Port of Houston Authority Commission
by Jim Guidry
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Port of Houston Authority on Tuesday voted unanimously to adopt a resolution in support of the Houston Arts Alliance's "Working the Port" project.
MP3 RealPlayer

Pat Jasper,  director of the Houston Folklife and Traditional Arts Program at the Alliance, explained the project, which documents individuals who have worked in Houston’s port and ship channel industries. “This is an unbridled opportunity to capture the live voices of the port,” Jasper said.

The commission voted unanimously to adopt an internal audit engagement letter and scope of work proposed for a risk assessment by the Harris County Auditor, in an amount not to exceed $50,000. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer

“The item before the commission for consideration represents an expanded role for the Harris County Auditor here at the port authority and is an example, I think, of the port authority giving our process of giving thoughtful review and implementation to recommendations that were in the Harris County Attorney’s report last year,” said Commissioner Jim Fonteno. 

The commission voted unanimously to select AAA Asphalt Paving, Inc, for negotiation of a construction contract for the dust suppression system at Industrial Park East at the Turning Basin Terminal.

The commission voted unanimously to select R&T Architects, Inc. for negotiation of a  professional services contract for the replacement of the guardhouse at Gate 8 at Turning Basin Terminal.

The commission voted 5-0-1, with Steve Phelps recusing himself, to award a professional services contract to Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. for the rehabilitation of Wharves 1 and 2 at Barbours Cut Terminal.

The commission voted 5-0-1, with Janeice Longoria recusing herself, to issue new pipeline licenses for expiring PHA licenses.

The commission voted 4-0-2, with Longoria and Chair Jim Edmonds recusing themselves, to issue a marine construction permit to CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric, LLC to install a new electrical transmission tower near Alexander Island.

All other agenda items were approved unanimously by the commission, with Kase Lawal absent.  Agenda  PHA News Release

PHA Interim Executive Director Colonel Leonard Waterworth reported to the commission that total tonnage at Port of Houston Authority docks was up more than 26 percent through February. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer

“This growth was driven by continued strength in steel tonnage,” Waterworth said.

He said steel was up 329,000 tons, or 143 percent for the month and 564,000 tons or 119 percent for 2012. Container tonnage showed solid growth of 147,000 tons or 6 percent for the year, with loaded container units growing by 10 percent.  Other general and bulk cargoes at Port Authority facilities grew by 296,000 tons or 44 percent for the year, he noted.

Total operations tonnage was solid, equating to operating revenues that grew by double digits, Waterworth reported. February revenue was $17.7 million, up by 16 percent with year-to-date revenues of $34.7 million, a 13-percent increase over 2011. 

Net operating income is $1.8 million ahead of the budget, Waterworth said, given lower expenditures than expected, partially offset by a shortfall in container revenues due to timing issues. 

“It’s good to be on the positive side,” he concluded, noting that while there is an upswing in the market currently, the Port Authority will continue to strive to increase efficiencies.

Representatives of the Texas Sunset Commission, who are reviewing the operations of the port, attended the meeting. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer

“I know I speak on behalf of the entire Port Authority organization when I say that we sincerely support this process,” Edmonds said to the representatives at the meeting. “The Port of Houston Authority intends to make whatever changes are necessary to maintain the confidence of Texas legislators and the public, as we carry out our mandate to deliver jobs and economic prosperity for our community and nation into the next century.”

The sunset review will continue through June, with a report submitted with recommendations to the members of the Sunset Commission at the end of July. A public hearing on the committee’s recommendations will be held in Austin September 4.

Alan Clark and Chandra Bondzie of the Houston-Galveston Area Council addressed the port commission regarding a study of
better ways to move freight in the region.
Listen: MP3 RealPlayer

Following the port commission meeting, the members met as the Board of Pilot Commissioners for Harris County Ports and voted to renew a branch pilot state commission for Captain Barry C. Holland; and issued a deputy branch pilot certificate for Captain Stephen B. Jewell.

Captain Robert Thompson, presiding officer of the Houston Pilots, gave a quarterly report to the board. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer

“In January, we moved 1,721 vessels,” Thompson said.  “That’s a daily average of 55.5 vessels a day.”

He said pilots moved 1,461 in February and he projects that1,863 will be moved in March.

Thompson said fog during the first quarter has been a problem, with 355 hours of channel closures thus far.  He reported that the pilots are continuing to prepare to handle larger ships that will come to the port when the Panama Canal expansion is completed.

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