Captain’s Corner – We Ride
“We Ride!” This was our group’s battle cry each morning as we mounted bikes to ride from Bruges, Belgium, to Amsterdam, Netherlands, over the course of seven days in mid-September. Annette and I were joined by my sister, my brother, and their spouses as we all celebrated our 30 year wedding anniversaries together. We were blessed with beautiful, summer-like weather, as we peddled the 175 miles through the open gorgeous lowlands. Along the way we stopped to visit windmills, castles, impressive churches and quaint towns. It was a fun and exciting way to explore this part of Europe.
The trip was part of a barged and biked vacation. We slept and took our meals on the barge, sometimes motored in the morning or evening, so there was the added benefit of sightseeing from the barge, which I quite enjoyed as well. This was my first real exposure to the elaborate system of ports, canals, rivers, and locks weaving through the Belgian and Dutch countryside. Large operations like the massive industrial complex we call the Port of Houston are undeniably impressive. But, when experiencing the centuries-old waterway systems in Europe first-hand, I could not help but marvel at the tremendous and multifaceted intermodal network that is the work of hundreds of years of forward planning and investment.
On the flight home, I thought about the enormous challenges faced by Dutch and Belgian engineers working in nations under a constant threat of coastal flooding. About a quarter of the Netherland’s land is under sea level, most of which is man-made through either draining shallow lakes or building up land with dredged material. Dredging firms in the 16th century used simple shovels and wheelbarrows to keep channels dredged. Over the course of generations, the level of dedication to maintaining navigable ports and waterways has led to thriving international trade, and some of the busiest ports in the world.
It got me motivated to continue to push the message of how valuable our waterways and industry are to our communities back here in Texas. This year we’ve spoken to citizen’s advisory groups, economic forums, newspapers, television reporters, regulators, and Congress about the importance of the Port to our economy and our communities. But there is more to do. I was glad to learn that while I was abroad, two of our board members advocated to the Texas State Senate Select Committee on Ports about the importance of dredging in the Texas Gulf. Captain Bob Shearon, the Presiding Officer of the Houston Pilots and Vice President of the Texas State Pilots, spoke about the need to keep our channel deep and wide, and Dave Weston, Vice President at HDR, Inc., submitted written testimony highlighting the need for implementable solutions to regulatory and funding issues.
The message is getting out, and I can’t be more appreciative of the hard work everyone is doing to help us tell the good story of our ports and our maritime industry. So what’s next? The key is going to be to keep building on our successes. The people of Belgium, the Netherlands, and the global maritime markets aren’t pausing with their past success—they are all looking to improve their competitiveness. And so are we at your Port Bureau, we’re looking for innovative, sustainable solutions as well.
All things considered, I’m glad to be home. It was great to relax with family and spend time away biking through beautiful countryside; it is something I’ll always cherish. But landing back in Houston, I’m ready to keep building upon what I saw and the work we’re doing, and keep building our part of this vibrant economic engine on which we all depend. We Ride!
- Date October 12, 2016
- Tags October 2016