News & Updates: Port Bureau News: June 2020

Captain's Corner: A Rising Sun

Friday, June 26, 2020  
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While President George Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1787, he used a chair carved with a sun on the horizon.  At the end of the convention, Benjamin Franklin was the first to sign the Constitution and made this comment:  I have often looked at that [chair] behind the president, and there were days when I thought this picture of a sun low on the horizon was a setting sun. But I now know it’s a rising sun—a new day for America, a new dawn for freedom.”

The chair, carved with a sun on the horizon, George Washington used while presiding over the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Photo courtesy of Monticello Digital Classroom.


I write this as we face many challenges as a nation, industry, and port.  Our decisions will have the most effect on the port, but hopefully our actions as a community ripple across the industry and nation. Like all called to lead, it matters most that you stand tall when everything is upended, and the path forward is unknown. 

I am pleased to report, that despite the enormous disruptions, your Port Bureau Board of Directors remain committed to making decisions and supporting actions that promise long term benefits to the entire maritime community.  This can be particularly seen in the ongoing activity of our Advocacy, Membership, and Efficiency Committees during this time. The time they have invested in each effort is invaluable to our members and to all stakeholders in the port region

Our Advocacy Committee led our board to sign two letters of support and one resolution - each important to progress in the port region - within a few short weeks. Most notably, almost 30 companies signed a letter of support requesting that all of the ongoing operations and maintenance (O&M) of the future Houston Ship Channel expansion project, also known as Project 11, be assumed by the federal government. As it stands now, O&M of one section of the Channel would be borne by the local partner and industry, despite overwhelming evidence of the project’s national value. In addition, some of our board members have given webinars and media interviews reinforcing the value of our port region.

Our Membership Committee also continued to meet remotely, brainstorming how the Port Bureau could pivot to providing the right services at the right time to our members. Everyone agreed that the most vital services we could provide were information and data, leading us to launch our first new data product in several years, a weekly vessel arrival report.

In addition, the Efficiency Committee pushed forward to launch the Houston trial of the PortXchange port planning software on June 8 (also known as the Pronto trial). We are excited about the potential of this venture and eager to see the results it will bring. I attended the Lone Star Harbor Safety Committee (LSHSC) meeting on June 5 and shared our goals for this initiative. It was encouraging to see the enthusiasm from the LSHSC members for the Houston trial and to get their feedback on how it can make a positive impact our industry. Everyone feels the time and funds invested in this project will see a good return in improved efficiencies and the cost-effectiveness of our port, especially for chemical tanker calls.

While steep challenges remain ahead for all of us, I am optimistic knowing that our board will continue to stand up for progress in our maritime industry and in identifying ways the Port Bureau can best serve our members. George Washington once said, “the harder the conflict, the greater the triumph.” I think his words hold true for us all as we cautiously move forward. Hopefully, like Benjamin Franklin, we see the sun in Washington’s chair as rising on our port, industry, and nation.





About the Author

CAPT Bill Diehl, USCG (Ret.), P.E. is president of the Greater Houston Port Bureau. Utilizing his 30+ years of marine safety and port operations experience, he guides the Port Bureau in bringing members and community partners together for cooperation and collaboration to improve and advance the port region.