2019, our 90th year of business, proved to be a rewarding year for the Greater Houston Port Bureau. It was not without its challenging moments, but 2019 saw the Port Bureau expanding operations and exploring new opportunities to help our members and maritime community partners along the Houston Ship Channel.
Advocacy & Outreach
One of the most significant measures the Port Bureau supported in 2019 was the importance of maintaining two-way traffic on the Houston Ship Channel and the investment in the Ship Channel required to uphold these vital vessel transits. Joining with members and maritime community partners to champion the channel expansion project, known as Project 11 (expandthehoustonshipchannel.com), has been a priority in the Port Bureau’s advocacy and outreach efforts in 2019 and continues to be in 2020.
CAPT Diehl served as keynote and guest speaker at numerous functions during the year. These included addressing the Federal Reserve Economic Outlook Conference, the Texas American Waterway Operators luncheon, the Economic Alliance Development Task Force, the Economic Alliance Gulf Coast Industry Forum, a Fundamentals of Shipping class for Shell, the Multiport Ship Agencies Networking Conference, and a Risk Management Association luncheon. He also participated in a 5-person panel at the Houston Business Journal’s Port and PetroChem Industry breakfast.
CAPT Diehl was invited in April to attend the President’s Energy and Infrastructure order signing at the International Training and Education Center for the International Union of Operating Engineers in Crosby.
In September, CAPT Diehl traveled to Vancouver, BC, to take part in the Marine Exchange of North America’s (MISNA) annual meeting. The MISNA members exchanged updates on the technology and methodologies used to collect information to make shipping more efficient and safer in each homeport.
CAPT Diehl also spent time with the National Geographic video production company to provide an overview of how the port works for a documentary the company is producing about hurricane preparations in the port and offshore.
Staff and member Captain Hudson / MOL welcomed Captain Saxena (Synergy Group) and crew of the Castara (MOL carrier) during their first U.S. port call at the port of Houston in March at the ITC terminal.
CAPT Diehl and staff also visited new Port Bureau member Captain Sabbath on the general cargo vessel, Ocean Glory, during its visit to one of the public docks.
The Port Bureau stepped up involvement with members, public officials, and stakeholders during the year to advocate for Ship Channel concerns. In April, CAPT Diehl and several members of the Port Bureau board of directors joined the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region on their annual advocacy trip to Washington, DC. Together, over 30 appointments were held with congressional staffs and agency leaders. Two-way traffic, channel expansion funding, getting timely dredging permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE), and infrastructure projects that can be implemented as part of hurricane and flooding recovery plans were the issues discussed.
Other advocacy opportunities CAPT Diehl participated in included the ACOE Stakeholder Forum, discussing the Ship Channel widening with the Assistant Deputy of Policy & Legislation and a roundtable discussion with U.S. Representative Kevin Brady. In addition, Port Bureau vice president, Christine Schlenker, provided the Houston Chronicle a statement on Houston Ship Channel investments, and marketing manager Andrea LaVorgna organized several media events.
These included a media conference after the September Commerce Club luncheon for regional media reporters and analysts with Ric Campo, Port Commission chairman; Vincent DiCosimo, Targa Resources; Jim Teague, Enterprise Products; and, Captain Mark Mitchem, Houston Pilots. The goal was to promote Project 11 by showing the regional unity to expand and deepen the Houston Ship Channel.
Networking & Business Development
90th Annual Maritime Dinner
Networking and business development opportunities flourished at the Port Bureau’s events in 2019. Our 90th Annual Maritime Dinner celebrated the contributions of Jim Black, president of Moran Shipping Agencies, Inc., to Houston’s maritime community. Over 750 guests that included industry leaders, public officials, and other community partners came out to honor Jim’s leadership in the port region.
Port Bureau CONNECT
The Port Bureau hosted its first Executive Partner and Corporate Member appreciation event in November 2019 at Watco Companies. Members enjoyed a roof-top view of the heart of the Houston Ship Channel and networked with fellow port executives at the event. The Port Bureau plans to host the CONNECT appreciation events quarterly in 2020.
Informative sessions on the port of Houston region and ways to become more involved in the maritime business community were introduced in 2019. Led by CAPT Diehl and hosted at the Port Bureau’s training room facility, Port 101 was presented monthly at no charge to members and those interested in membership.
Captain’s Cup Golf Tournament
The Port Bureau hosted the 11th Annual Captain’s Cup golf tournament on October 28, 2019, at BraeBurn Country Club. First place went to Team Services. Several contests were featured as part of the day’s sport, including closest-to-the-pin, two hole-in-one prizes, longest drive, and a raffle with popular prizes. All players went home with the gift of a Bushnell Phantom Golf GPBS Rangefinder. Team slots sell out fast. Keep this in mind for the 2020 tournament!
CAPT Diehl received recognition for his work with leaders, companies, and organizations to promote maritime prosperity from the East End Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber presented CAPT Diehl with their 2019 Male Executive Award at their 24th Annual Awards Celebration on November 7. The event recognizes and awards Chamber members whose efforts and leadership further the growth of the East End area.
The Port Bureau hosts Commerce Club luncheons on the second Thursday of each month, ten months out of the year. A superlative line-up of speakers attracted attendees to the monthly luncheons, making each event an outstanding time of learning, networking, and making new contacts.
The Port Bureau News magazine reaches over 5,000 readers. Its published a variety of reports and informative articles in 2019, including an insightful vessel movement analysis by GHPB board member, Tom Marian of Buffalo Marine Services, Inc each month. The magazine’s reports and articles for the past several years are available online at the Port Bureau’s website. For a complete listing click here.
The Advocacy Committee strives to promote the port of Houston, broaden understanding and recognition of the significant trends and value of the port region to existing and new markets. The group focuses on messaging opportunities to share through events, articles, collateral materials, and media interviews how the greater port of Houston is a key national asset, providing unmatched capacity, flexibility, and reliability. Such awareness helps to strengthen support for projects crucial to the future of the port region, such as Project 11, and promotes Houston’s maritime values in the wider community.
The Efficiency Committee finalized plans in 2019 for testing Pronto, a vessel and terminal data sharing platform. Pronto is currently utilized at the Port of Rotterdam to enable shipping companies, agents, terminals and other service providers to optimally plan, execute and monitor all activities during a port call based on standardized data exchange. The Pronto trial, which is sponsored by Shell, is scheduled to take place in 2020. The need for such a data sharing platform was identified 2018, when a working group of the Efficiency Committee was established to study areas for improvement for chemical tanker port calls. The working group built out a cost model to identify solutions, with the specific aim to reduce cost by 20 percent to improve inefficiencies. Committee members are eager to evaluate the outcome of the Pronto testing to secure these efficiency improvement goals.
The Efficiency Committee initiated a process improvement program in 2019 to address other efficiency issues in the port region, namely ones that can be solved with process improvement projects rather than costly infrastructure investments. Committee members are investigating projects that range from developing port-wide standard operating procedures to creating more efficient processes for inspections.
Seeking to assure our organization reflects the diverse interests of Houston’s maritime community, the Port Bureau formed a Membership Committee in 2019. The group reviewed our membership roll, examined our portfolio of services, and formulated enhanced goals for Port Bureau membership. We conducted a member survey to evaluate our services and identify ways we can bring more information and more value to our members. The committee also helped initiate the first Port Bureau CONNECT event.
Port Region Industry Support
As a part of our mission to promote cooperation and efficiency within the port region, the Greater Port Bureau offers support services to various local industry organizations. In 2019, this included providing administrative and meeting support to the Houston Ship Channel Security District and Greater Houston Coffee Association, maintaining the website for the Lone Star Harbor Safety Committee and participating in the National Harbor Safety Committee Conference held in Houston this year, and assisting with logistics for Brownwater University.
As a part of our mission to promote cooperation and we are excited to enter our 91st year of serving our membership and community partners with the best services and events to build new business, advance progress on our waterway, and promote the value of the port region.
We remain committed to finding new and innovative ways to drive business development for our members and to support the advocacy missions necessary to support the vitality of our maritime industry. Whether you are a longtime Port Bureau member, or you are discovering us for the first time, give us a call to make 2020 the year you maximize your engagement for continued progress and prosperity in the Houston Ship Channel community