HOUSTON, April 28, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Port Commission, at its regular monthly meeting today, approved several agenda items aimed at further strengthening operations at the Port of Houston Authority.
A photo accompanying this release is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=32500
Port Commissioners awarded a professional services contract to TCB/GBA Joint Venture for professional engineering and planning services in support of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' feasibility study of modifications to improve the Houston Ship Channel system. That system includes the Houston, Barbours Cut and Bayport ship channels.
"This study is critical to the greater Port of Houston and will determine necessary improvements to continue moving commerce in our region," said Executive Director Roger Guenther. The $3 million contract covers the minimum three-year study period. The Port of Houston is one of three ports in the nation selected for this congressional study.
The Port Commission approved entering into a nearly $120,000, two-year agreement with Versiant Corporation at Port Authority container terminals to better interface with its operating systems and further shorten gate interchange time.
Port Commissioners also amended a one-year contract with Navis for a Vessel Berth Management system, which replaces manual processes, allowing greater visibility and transparency to berth schedules, both internally and externally.
In addition, the Port Commission approved a professional services contract to John C. Martin Associates for the development of a new economic impact study for the Port Authority. The latest study, released in 2012, revealed an economic impact of $178.5 billion, generating more than 1 million jobs each year in Texas alone.
The Port Commission approved the Port Authority's Strategic Plan, which establishes a long-range plan for the organization, with a horizon of more than a decade. The plan was created through collaboration with external and internal stakeholders. Nick Davidson and Richard Batty from Leigh/Fisher, Inc. consultants gave a summary of the Strategic Plan.
The Port Commission also voted unanimously to amend and extend Guenther's contract through January of 2018. The current contract would expire in January of 2016.
In his monthly financial report to the Port Commission, Guenther said that the Port Authority's Barbours Cut and Bayport container terminals were particularly busy in March. A combined 40 percent more loaded containers were handled in March, compared to a year ago.
The record amounts of freight were moved, despite issues associated with a ship channel closure earlier in the month, Guenther reported. He again lauded the collaborative effort, led by U.S. Coast Guard in the response and recovery resulting from the collision that caused the closure.
Through the first quarter of 2015, loaded container units increased by 24 percent over 2014, Guenther reported. Import steel continues to exceed projections, up by more than 66 percent for the year, he said. He reiterated that steel increases are expected to taper off over the next several months, as indicated by discussions at the Steel Roundtable held in March.
It was also another record month in revenue for the Port Authority.
Although cargo volumes and cash flows are doing well, Guenther emphasized the challenges with funding that the Port Authority will face over the next decade to build new facilities and maintain existing infrastructure to meet demands.
"It is essential that we have public support for our infrastructure needs as we move forward," he said.
Guenther gave an update on the progress of the new super post-panamax cranes destined for Barbours Cut Terminal, which are expected to arrive and begin offloading to the dock in early May. The cranes are currently in the Caribbean Sea and ready for the homestretch across the Gulf into Houston, he said.
Chairman Janiece Longoria noted some key visits to the port in March, including newly appointed Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos. A delegation from Colombia was also hosted.
Longoria cited the efforts of U.S. Reps. Gene Green and Brian Babin and Sen. John Cornyn to ensure that the U.S. Army Corps has the legal directives it needs to address the Bayport Flare. The Port Authority has been working with the Corps to improve both the safety and navigability of the Bayport Flare, which the Houston Pilots have identified as their top safety concern in the Houston Ship Channel system.
Longoria also said she was thrilled to host EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who visited the port last Thursday and conducted a press conference to highlight the EPA's awarding of two significant environmental grants administered by the Port Authority. The Port Authority received two Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) grants in amounts of nearly $900,000 each. The most recent grant includes a private $1,680,142 match for a total amount of more than $2.5 million. The port earlier this year was awarded a DERA grant for almost $900,000 in funding to replace 14 older drayage trucks.
Chairman Longoria also noted her participation with Guenther in a Port Region Transportation Committee meeting, hosted by the Economic Alliance.
"We emphasized the need to promote projects that make the entire region more competitive economically, and this meeting set the groundwork for us to move forward as a region with one voice on critical transportation improvements," she said.
About the Port of Houston Authority
For more than 100 years, the Port of Houston Authority has owned or operated the public cargo-handling facilities of the Port of Houston – the nation's largest port for foreign waterborne tonnage. The port is an economic engine for the Houston region, the state of Texas and the nation. It supports the creation of more than one million statewide jobs and more than 2.1 million nationwide jobs, and the generation of economic activity totaling more than $178.5 billion in Texas and $499 billion across the nation. For more information, visit the Port Authority website at: www.portofhouston.com
The Port of Houston Authority logo is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=719
The photo is also available via AP PhotoExpress.
CONTACT: Bill Hensel, Manager, Corporate Communications Office: 713-670-2893 Cell: 832-452-5776 E-mail: email@example.com
Source:Port of Houston Authority