Port of Galveston
Michael Mierzwa, Port Director
FTZ No. 36 • 22 berths • 219,7000 sq. ft. warehouse space • 45-ft. channel
Rail: BNSF, UP
Michael Mierzwa: One thing that came up last year was we won a Quest for Quality Award from the Logistics Management periodical, so we were one of the few winners in the port category. The award recognizes performance and value and information technology, customer service and equipment and operations and I thought that was quite an honor for the Port of Galveston to be considered for this particular award given the fact that it was us and just a few other ports that won that award. That was a big deal to us and I think that speaks to our goal down here to try to provide quality service for folks that are using our port. We are a little bit smaller but we pride ourselves in the ability of truckers primarily to get into the port quickly. They are all following these Homeland Security guidelines that make it a little bit difficult for people to get on the port, but we are trying to facilitate truckers’ ability to get onto the port, get their cargo and then be on their way, and I think we have a quick turnaround here. You don’t see a lot of congestion in our port because it’s pretty small. Along that same line with respect to rapid turnaround at the port, the port is serviced by two Class I railroads, BNSF and the Union Pacific and we are an excellent gateway into the heartland of America as a result. If they’re shipping their cargo via rail, it’s very easy for them to get their product to or from the Port of Galveston because of the lack of congestion getting into the port. The other thing about Galveston is, obviously, we’re here on the coast, on the Gulf of Mexico; probably any one of our docks is about 45 minutes from deep water where the ships pick up their pilots to bring them into port. Galveston is really best suited for those type of cargos that are on a schedule, whether it be fresh fruit that’s coming up from Central America or it’s roll-on/roll-off cargo. Galveston is one of the stops along what I call “the milk run,” when it goes from here to Georgia and then to Baltimore and then on to New York/New Jersey. The vessels come in here and they get turned around quickly and they’re on their way. We are not a container port, at least right now. We are looking into doing that and hopefully handling niche containers coming out of either South America or export containers out of the Midwest, which then again ties into our whole connectivity with the two Class I railroads that are here. I think that’s what we offer. I think that’s what this Quest for Quality Award.
We are not dealing with crowded terminals, and we are very close to the highway that runs from Houston to Galveston; we are probably about three miles from that interstate highway, which obviously would have connectivity to the other interstate highways that run, you know, east and west and then farther north into the Midwest. We are kind of at a strategic location here because of our history of being, you know, the first port in the state of Texas and basically what our founding fathers did when they put together this railroad system here, the BNSF and the legacy railroad from them, the Santa Fe. The beauty of those particular rail connections is they bypass all that congestion in the city of Houston. The Port of Houston does not have that advantage over us because they’ve got to run their rail through, basically, a city of 4 million people. We kind of go around all that and out into the country, so we’ve got some outstanding rail connections. We have deep water, 45 feet, for us it’s easily maintained to 45 feet, so that’s not an issue for us.
The [Quest for Quality Award judges] looked at five different evaluation areas, and one was customer service. I think for me, of the five areas that I’m looking at here, obviously two of the other ones are performance and value, I just think that on the customer service side it’s going to be very difficult for people to be better than us. I just think because of our size we’re able to give a little bit more personalized service. For these guys who are driving these trucks, it’s a little bit frustrating to get through all this security or you have to have an escort. Our police department here that mans our security gates works very hard to try to expedite these truckers through our gates so they can get their cargo. And then, by the nature and size of the terminals that we have here, these truckers are able to identify their cargo and get them loaded and out of here very quickly. Obviously, we have partners in all this. We have, on the federal side, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and they are obviously checking cargoes as they depart Port of Galveston. They’ve partnered with us to make sure that they’re not holding people up at the gates trying to check out and get on the road to deliver this cargo. Also, we have an outstanding workforce here with respect to our longshoreman. We use ILA union labor down here, and it’s a very savvy cadre of the longshoreman that we have here; they have been doing this for a long time and they are experts at handling the types of cargo that we handle down here. Whether it be roll-on/roll-off or refrigerated fruit coming off of these banana boats or being a porter for cruise terminals for cruise passengers, these guys know what they’re doing. It’s experienced labor. They’re very good and they’re value added to what we’re trying to do down here. So that always builds into the other criteria with performance and value; it’s an excellent workforce. I think between the customer service and the performance of the people who are actually physically handling the cargoes, that adds value to what we are trying to do down here to assist the movement of cargo, whether it be import or export.
When it comes to other award categories like information technology and equipment and operations, we’re not going to knock the ball out of the park with those. Our equipment is probably essentially what anybody else has. Like I said, we don’t handle containers, so we don’t have the big cranes down here, but you know we do have shore-based cranes that our stevedores own and operate. Again, it’s nothing I have anything to do with. I just watch it as the port director because we’re essentially a landlord port. The only operation that we run here is the cruise terminals, but I watch what our licensed stevedores do with the union labor that they use, and these guys are very efficient. We handle a lot of wind project cargo here, mostly on the import side. We had some blades we exported in the middle of last year. The people who are bringing this wind project cargo to the port are very impressed how quickly and how safely they handle their cargo. A lot of the stuff is now moving out of here by rail and they get it on these rail cars without any damage and off the ship without any damage. Sso, again, back from why should the Port of Galveston have received this award, I think it really fits into this customer service that we’re able to offer combined with what I think is an experienced and very knowledgeable workforce that helps us move cargo both, you know, safely and efficiently with no damage. I think that’s our strong suit. We’re not too big that we lose sight of that. We’re not too small that we’re so limited on what we’re able to handle in Galveston. We’re just kind of the right size with a lot of flexibility and our outstanding workforce to be able to handle a diverse range of product.
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