Port project progress — Coming next: Berth 5 will expand capacity

 

The Port of Port Arthur is preparing for a groundbreaking ceremony this month for Berth 5, a 600-foot extension from the current facilities south toward the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge.

Port Director Larry Kelley said the bid was awarded for the project last year, creating additional berth space at a time when exports continue to mushroom.

“There has been demolition and site prep work. Now we’re driving concrete, support pilings to hold the system and extracting old piles that have been demolished,” he said Monday. “Marine construction is complex, slow and expensive.”

Here’s how slow: The project was initially designed in 2014. Permitting and design changes, plus construction, have set the target date for the project in the last quarter of 2020.

Right behind the completion of Berth 5 will come Berth 6, an additional thousand feet of dock space that will extend the constructed port almost to the bridge. And there’s room for more development, beyond the 136-foot high span.

Here’s how expensive: About $37.2 million for this project. Berth 6 will cost another $55 million.

But here’s how necessary the project is, Kelley said: Labor hours are up about 30 percent, as the port handles increased exports of locally produced diesel fuel.

“Our cargo volume is strong and will remain so,” he said. “Clearly the port is growing.”

The increase in diesel exports from Port Arthur are helping to increase tonnage and, he notes, helps the U.S. trade balance.

“But we have a capacity constraint,” he said of limited dock space.

The port is handling imports that include wood from Europe, aluminum from Argentina, pulp from Brazil and more.

“Aluminum is a new import,” he said. “It helps pay the rent and keeps our longshoremen employed.”

The Berth 5 groundbreaking will be open to the public. But because access to the port is limited, the port will run buses from the Port Arthur International Seafarers’ Center, 401 Houston Ave., to the site. Bring your official ID, which is required for entry to the port.

Those who wish to attend should be at the Seafarers’ Center by 9:30 a.m. for the 10 a.m. April 16 ceremony. Gumbo will be served at the Seafarers’ Center following the ceremony.

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