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Port Commission Approves Four New Electric Cranes for Barbours Cut Container Terminal

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HOUSTON, April 23, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Demonstrating continued investment in infrastructure improvements to better serve customers, the Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority today selected Konecranes Finland Corporation to supply four dockside electric container cranes for Wharf No. 1 at Barbours Cut Container Terminal.

The Port Commission authorized negotiation of a contract with Konecranes for the equipment, which is part of a significant renovation under way at Barbours Cut, the Port Authority's first container terminal. Opened in 1977, the Barbours Cut Container Terminal has grown to be one of the premier container-handling facilities in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. A planned $700 million project to modernize this critical facility will include new cranes, lights and dock improvements to provide customers more efficient cargo handling with expanded capability to handle larger ships.

Two Foreign Trade Zone matters were also approved, one for an expansion of FTZ 84, of which the Port Authority is the grantee, and one to create a new subzone. FTZ 84 is one of the largest zones in the U.S. and according to the latest report to Congress, more value passes through it than any other FTZ in the nation, exporting more than $5 billion worth of goods annually.

The Port Commission also approved the Port Authority's fiscal year 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). External auditors Grant Thornton, LLP gave an unqualified or "clean" audit opinion of Port Authority financial records, Commission Chairman Janiece Longoria reported in her introductory remarks at the meeting. The CAFR is available on PHA's website at http://www.portofhouston.com/financial-information-and-transparency.

Longoria recognized Executive Director Len Waterworth on his first anniversary with the Port Authority (he was named to the permanent position on April 24, 2012), noting a record year in 2012 with many achievements to take pride in.

Longoria also reported she was "very pleased" with the news that the International Longshoremen's Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance had agreed on a new, six-year contract.

"We couldn't get the work done without their efforts," she said. "We are the envy of ports in the U.S. because of our good relationship with labor."

Longoria noted that Commissioner Jim Fonteno would be stepping down from his volunteer service as a Port Commissioner and said that she would formally recognize him at the May Port Commission meeting, as Fonteno was not present at the meeting.

Longoria also reported that the Port Authority had added the Port of Istanbul to its long list of trade partners. Longoria and Gani Aygün, president of the Port of Istanbul, signed the Memorandum of Friendship and Trade Cooperation on April 2 as part of the Turkey-Houston Business Conference organized in conjunction with the launch of Turkish Airline's inaugural non-stop flight between Istanbul and Houston.

Concluding her remarks, Longoria said she wanted to express her optimism for the future, noting the Port of Houston's status as the top export port for 11 years, contributing nearly $179 billion and one million jobs to the region. She thanked everyone at the table for their contributions in ensuring the port's mandate to sustain jobs and generate economic impact.

In his monthly report, Executive Director Len Waterworth said that total tonnage at Port Authority facilities for the month of March had increased 6 percent due in large part to containers, which increased by 97,000 tons while year-to-date total tonnage of 8.7 million tons is up slightly by 2 percent.

The improvement for the year comes largely from container tonnage, with an increase of 413,000 tons or 9 percent, offset by a decline in steel of 305,000 tons or 20 percent. March operating revenues were $18.3 million, down by 7 percent over last year, given expiration of a 2012 dredge placement agreement. Year-to-date March revenue of $57.5 million reflects a $3 million or 6 percent increase, again driven by containers.

General and administrative (G&A) expenses for March were down slightly from prior year based on savings from the reorganization. Year-to-date, G&A is up slightly by $115,000.

Year to date, the Port Authority has realized $16.5 million in net income, with operations generating income of $8 million, plus $8 million in contributions and grant funds.

"For the year, cash flow from operating activities is $22 million, while total cash flow of $31 million is up by $7 million or 29 percent," Waterworth said.

Waterworth also acknowledged the success of the Third Annual Maritime Youth Expo, which was held April 6 at the Bayport Cruise Terminal. More than 350 students attended from PHA's maritime academies at Austin and Yates high schools, as well as students from Pasadena, La Porte and Galena Park and Sea Scouts.

The annual expo is hosted by PHA in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Harris County Pct. 2, Houston Pilots Association, Economic Alliance Houston Port Region, San Jacinto College, Texas Department of Parks & Wildlife, Texas Southern University and the West Gulf Maritime Association. The hands-on activities supplement classroom work. Waterworth congratulated Gilda Ramirez and her staff in the Community Outreach Department on the success of the event.

Also at the meeting, Marcus Woodring, Managing Director, Health, Safety, Security and Environmental, gave a safety update, noting that the International Labour Organization World Day for Safety is April 28, with a focus on the prevention of occupational diseases, the leading cause of work-related deaths.

Woodring said suggestions for improvement were being considered as a result of a safety survey conducted by DuPont STOP. In addition, Safety Coordinators have been assigned to each facility, a safety policy has been issued and a bilingual truck safety video for the two container terminals has been completed. Woodring noted that the Port Authority is currently seeking a Safety Director.

Waterworth also gave an update on new gate operations at Bayport Container Terminal. The rapid growth in containers has resulted in a critical need for improved technology, he said. While there has been a "learning curve" with the conversion of a 22-year-old system to new technology, Waterworth said the Port Authority is aware of delays and working on solutions. The new gate opened last week.

"We are setting conditions for the long-term growth of the port," he said.

The full meeting agenda is available on the Port of Houston Authority website, www.portofhouston.com/the-port-commission/public-meetings/agendas.

About the Port of Houston Authority

For nearly 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

CONTACT: Bill Hensel, Manager, Corporate Communications Office: (713) 670-2893 Cell: (832) 452-5776 E-mail: bhensel@poha.com

Source:Port of Houston Authority