Port of Galveston

The Port of Galveston lies on the northeastern shores of Galveston Island off the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast of Houston, Texas. It is an important deep-water port on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway with the best natural harbor in southern United States. It is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in the on the Gulf Coast. What began as not much more than a trading post in 1825 has grown to over 850 acres of port facilities today. 

The Port of Galveston economy depends on shipping, resorts, food processing, and oil refining. The major exports leaving the Port of Galveston are cotton, sulfur, and grain, and its major imports include sugar, bananas, and tea. The Port of Galveston shipyards offers repairs for all types of vessels, including nuclear-powered vessels. 

In April 2011 the Port of Galveston was in serious negotiations to turn over its entire operations over to the private sector. However, Hong-Kong-based Hutchison Port Holdings withdrew from negotiations which led its partner, investment firm Carlyle Group, to withdraw as well. The proposed 75-year lease deal would have given Carlyle and HPH control of existing leased assets, a 100-acre terminal on the port's west end, a 

Historical significance

Established by a proclamation issued by the Congress of Mexico on October 17, 1825, while the land known as Texas still belonged to Mexico, the Port of Galveston became the oldest port in the Gulf of Mexico west of New Orleans. Mexico's Congress designated the Port of Galveston as a port and customs entry point and established a customs house there in 1831. In 1835 after the Texas Revolution, the Texas Navy made the Port of Galveston its homeport, and it became a port of entry to the Republic of Texas in 1837. For a brief time, it was the capital for the new republic. The State of Texas chartered the Galveston Wharf and Cotton Press Company in 1854, consolidating the privately-owned docks and warehouses in the Port of Galveston. At that time, trains unloaded cargoes onto ferries to transport goods to the Port of Galveston. In 1860, a railroad bridge was finished, and railroads could serve the docks directly.

By 1900 the Port of Galveston was a fast-growing urban center with a population of 37,000. It was then the country's biggest exporter of cotton and the third biggest exporter of wheat in the United States. During the early 20th Century, Imperial Sugar Company began to operate on the Port of Galveston docks to import sugar from Cuba. Then in 1940 the citizens of the Port of Galveston voted to purchase the private holdings of the Galveston Wharf Company, and the port became a public port known as the Galveston Wharves.

The 1970s was a time of growth for the Port of Galveston. Duval Corporation opened a large sulfur exporting facility in the Port of Galveston in 1970, and the port's container terminal opened in 1972. During the 1990s, the Port of Galveston's international relationships grew. The Mexican Consulate opened a branch office at the Port of Galveston. In 1997 the Port of Galveston signed a lease agreement with the Port of Houston that allowed Houston to operate the container terminal in Galveston. Then in 1998 a container alliance that included the Port of Galveston, the Port of Houston, and China Ocean Shipping Company selected PHA Container Terminal in the Port of Galveston as a base for their operations. In 2003 the Port of Galveston signed an agreement with River Materials LLC to develop a general-purpose bulk terminal on the site of the earlier Imperial Sugar's bulk sugar terminal, and later that year signed an agreement with Cuba's largest food importer to provide food to Cuba's 11 million residents.


Governing Body

The Board of Trustees of the Galveston Wharves was designated to operate the public Port of Galveston by City Charter in 1940. The wharves and terminal properties that the city bought were created as a separate utility within the city and named the Galveston Wharves. The Board of Trustees is responsible for managing the assets of the port and the Port Director is responsible for the proper administration of all seaport functions.

Service Area

Galveston, Galveston County, Harris County, Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Chambers County, the State of Texas, and surrounding states and U.S. Mid-West 

Principal Trading Partners

Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, Venezuela, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Bulgaria, Belgium, United Kingdom, Germany, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iraq, Singapore, China, Japan, S. Korea, Australia, Cuba

2009 Tonnage

9,791,907 tons 

Foreign exports 3,437,822 tons

Foreign imports 1,105,885 tons 

All domestic  5,248,200 tons

All cargo

34%     petroleum products

31.6%     food

20%     chemicals

4.8%     sand

3.8%     fertilizer

3.79%     manufacturing goods

.9%     metal products

Ranking among US Ports

#47 for all cargo, domestic and foreign

Principal Activities and Products

Cruise Ship Operations (1st in Texas, 1st in the Gulf of Mexico, 4th in the United States and 11th in the World*), 

Roll-On/Roll-Off Import and Export Operations, 

General Cargo and Project Cargo

Import and Export Operations

Bulk Grain Export Operations 

General Dry Bulk Import and Export Operations 

Liquid Bulk Storage and Export Operation

 Refrigerated Cargo Import Operations

Offshore Support Services

Vessel & Offshore Rig Repair Services

Container Operations

Imports: Bananas, Pineapples, Melons, Citrus Fruits, Agricultural Equipment and Implements, Machinery and Machines, Vehicles, Fertilizer Products, Lumber Products, project Cargos, Wind TurbineRelated Cargo, Military-Related Cargoes

Exports: Bulk Grains, Machinery and Machines, Vehicles, Agricultural Equipment and Implements, Project Cargoes, Liner Board and Paper, Carbon Black, Light Fuels

Major Industries

Galveston has four major industries: tourism, the port, UTMB and related biotech industries. One of the largest and oldest employers is the American National Insurance Company founded in 1905 by William L. Moody, Jr. and is headquartered in Galveston. 

Cruise Ship Industry

The port’s location at the mouth of the Galveston Bay allows only 30 minutes of steaming time from the open sea. Tourism accounts for almost one-third of all jobs in the Port of Galveston. The first cruise ships docked at the Port of Galveston in 1974 and fifteen years later the first day-cruises began. By the time the new $2 million Galveston Cruise Ship Terminal was dedicated in 1990, Galveston was on its way to being recognized as a world renown cruise port.

In 2000 the Port of Galveston broke ground for a $10 million renovation project on the Texas Cruise Ship Terminal on Galveston Island, and the signed an agreement for the development of a new multi-service terminal on Pelican Island. Within a year cruise business doubled when the Carnival Cruise Lines began home-porting a second cruise ship in the port. By 2001 Galveston became the 7th busiest cruise port for the Caribbean region based on the number of passengers using the port. In 2003 Lloyd's Cruise International ranked the Port of Galveston as the 18th top cruise port in the world and the 6th top cruise port in the Caribbean region.  The Port continued its expansion and in 2003 imploded Grain Elevator B to make way for an expansion of cruise operations in the port. The following year Celebrity Cruises 

announced it would operate 11- and 12-day cruises from the Port of Galveston to the Panama Canal, and the port started a $7 million refurbishment effort for Cruise Terminal 2.

Environmental Quality/ Monitors / Contamination remediation

Air Monitor

Galveston 99th Street #1034 Monitor 9511 Avenue V 1/2

Canister VOC, NOX, PM 2.5, Ozone

PM 2.5:        2010 Yearly Max 64.52, Yearly SH 42.16

Ozone:        2010 Yearly Max 108, Yearly SH 106


Galveston Bay, East and West Bays and contiguous waters

Chemicals of Concern: Dioxin and Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) for all catfish species and spotted seatrout.