, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

June 12, 2014

Paitl: local ports among busiest and riskiest in nation

PORT NECHES — Joe Paitl, captain of the U.S. Coast Guard, is leaving his Port Arthur post next month, and retiring this year, but he won’t be leaving the community he has come to appreciate.

“I’m staying in Southeast Texas because this is my home,” Paitl told Port Arthur Sertoma members Thursday.

Paitl, the civic club’s guest speaker, discussed maritime issues, and the role the Coast Guard plays locally.

“This waterway, the Sabine-Neches - Southwest Louisiana, is one of the most important in terms of national defense, national energy and national economy,” Paitl said. “There is so much going on out there on this waterway. I haven’t seen anything like this in my 34 years in the military.”

The U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Unit in Port Arthur has 250 people — the largest in the country, and arguably the best, Paitl said.

Because the Port of Port Arthur operates on such a large scale — the fourth busiest port in the U.S. by tonnage — it keeps the Coast Guard busy securing the waterway, he said.

The Port of Port Arthur is the nation’s No. 1 crude oil destination, and No. 4 worldwide.

The waterway has two of the three commercial Military Outload Ports on the Gulf Coast, and two of four strategic petroleum reserves.

Seven major refineries produce 13.3 percent of the nation’s gasoline, and the area boasts the second largest outer continental shelf zone with 262 oil and gas rigs.

All that, and the waterway will only get busier in future years since President Obama signed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 Tuesday.

“The Water Act is awesome; it will bring a lot of revenue to the area,” he said.

In the coming years, Paitl said he anticipates Southeast Texas ports would see unprecedented growth from the $1.2 billion project to deepen the Sabine-Neches Waterway from 40 feet to 48 feet.

Based on 1,400 crude tankers a year, the added depth would result in $23 billion in additional cargo value.

Along the Sabine-Neches alone, more than $60 billion in investments is expected. Some of those projects include two Liquefied Natural Gas export projects: Cheniere in Louisiana and Golden Pass in Sabine Pass; and three Liquefied Hazardous Gas expansion projects: Sunoco, Martin, and Coast Caverns

Also planned are two petroleum expansion projects including one that will transport crude oil rail to sea as well as a project that will allow vessels currently daylight restricted to enter the port at night.

With all that is going on in this waterway, there are a lot of risks, Paitl said.

“Even before we had all this growth and planned growth, we were one, if not the riskiest port in the nation,” Paitl said. “ Our job is to buy down that risk, and we will continue to do so. The Coast Guard’s job is to keep ports and waterways safe and to keep them successful.”


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