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  April 14th, 2014 | Written by

Port of Port Arthur

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Orlando D. Ciramella, Senior Director of Trade Development

FTZ No. 116 • 40 total acres

Rail: KCS, UP

Highways: I-10, highways 69, 96, 2287, 73, 87

Top export destinations: U.K., European Continent, Mediterranean Area

Top export commodities: Wood Pellets, Kraft Linerboard


Orlando D. Ciramella: We were only built in 1969. We’re the most modern break-bulk port in North America. Why do I boast about that claim? Because of the transit shed features that we have. We have a 100-foot-wide working apron on both Berths 1 and 2 and Berths 3, 4 and 5. We have a fendering system that is only 12 inches wide which allows a ship—if you’re doing steel commodities with the close configuration of the rail tracks—we have three sets of rail tracks on the dock apron, so that allows the ship’s gear to hit Tracks 1 and 2 and then we have a 75-ton level lifting crane that hits Track 3. So, we’re able to work three steel gangs at one time. The other thing would be some of the features that we incorporated when we were building Sheds 3, 4 and 5. We have two rail tracks in the rear of the shed that are totally enclosed, so that allows rail car unloading in all kinds of inclement weather along with truck loading or unloading in all kinds of inclement weather. Normally Sheds 1 and 2 have an overhang that still allows you to load in inclement weather except if the wind and the rain are blowing sideways on you, then the cargo could get wet, whereas 3, 4 and 5 are totally enclosed. The port has, on 3, 4 and 5, since we handle a lot of forest products, we have metal grating at each of the doors. The doors in 3, 4 and 5 are hangar-style doors which are 24 feet wide by 36 feet high, so in essence you could get an extra bay there by only opening one of the doors if you really got squeezed for cargo space. The floor capacity on those sheds averages about 1,500 pounds per square foot, stacking height averages about 32 feet. The whole terminal is patrolled by closed circuit television cameras 24/7. The water side has infrared cameras for night vision in case there is a problem. It’s all backed up with a computer system. The cameras are inside the sheds also. One of the other unique things about the Port of Port Arthur is we have total natural gas generator backup. The executive office has a 250 kW Cummings natural gas generator and the terminal has two natural gas generators. One is a 430 and one is a 520 kW. I think that is unique for any port on the Gulf Coast. We also have a 500-gallon gasoline storage tank that takes care of the command center.

Global Trade: Well, let me ask you, because where you’re located, you have a lot of competition. So if I were an exporter and I were around maybe Fort Worth or Dallas, what are a few reasons that I would choose Port Arthur over Houston or Freeport or Galveston or Beaumont or even New Orleans if I were farther east?

Orlando D. Ciramella: Well, I guess the best way to explain it is, when I started with the port 23 years ago, I came out of industry. I worked for PPG Industries, and I thought that the shipper would control where their cargo would go and what carriers would call on you. Then when I came to work for the port back in 1990, if you had anywhere from 500 to 1,000 pounds of cargo and you delivered it to, let’s say, Port Arthur, you could get a carrier to call on you. Today that’s probably around, depending on your commodity, that’s anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 pounds. Port Arthur is very competitive cost-wise if the shipper has enough cargo to come in to us; I guess get a vessel call to call on us. We have regular liner service, three or four carriers monthly, and let’s say we wanted to get Intermarine to quit calling on you to come to Port Arthur, what advantage will we have? We would have to offer them, like, the 40 acres of waterfront property that we have and build them a terminal to entice them to come over here. Intermarine does call on us for project cargo. We do get a lot of project cargo through the port of Port Arthur, and we do get Big Lift, Intermarine, Costco and a couple other ones, but that’s because the cargo is destined to close proximity to the port of Port Arthur. We are probably one of three ports in the Gulf of Mexico that are totally ILA unionized workers with non-union working here. I personally think that’s an advantage because of the skills of the union workers versus the non-union workers. At some ports you have non-union workers performing a job but it’s actually union workers performing the job. You’re familiar with that part. … I mean, it’s the same work. The difference is they don’t get the benefit package that the ILA gives us.