The next time you pass by the bustling docks and wharfs of the Port of Galveston, take a moment to let the history and impact of the facility sink in. As the oldest port in the Gulf of Mexico west of New Orleans, the port has played a significant role in the development of island commerce for over 190 years.
What is now 850 acres of port facilities began as just a tiny speck on the map where hardboiled businessmen gathered to trade cotton, rice and other valued commodities. The facility traces its roots back to 1825 when the land was still part of Mexico and the Congress of Mexico issued a proclamation establishing it as a port. The ensuing decades would see the port become one of the most important shipping facilities in the country.
“Up until the hurricane of 1900, the port was the busiest on the Gulf Coast and was even considered the second busiest in the country behind the port of New York City,” said Port of Galveston spokesperson Cristina Galego. “Galveston’s wealth and position as the economic capital of Texas was due in large part to the port’s activity.”
Unfortunately, after the port was nearly wiped off the map by the 1900 hurricane—even though it was quickly re-built—it never reclaimed its lofty status and was overtaken by the larger, deep water facility known as the Houston Ship Channel. But the port continues to be a big economic driver for the region. The port adds $921.6 million to the regional economy, and more than $2.3 billion to the state's economy and is responsible for the creation of more than 13,890 direct and indirect jobs statewide according to a 2015 study.
If you’ve ever taken a cruise out of Galveston, you probably realize that the port attracts a lot of like-minded pleasure seekers. In fact, it’s Texas’ top cruise port, the fourth busiest cruise port in North America and ranks in the top 10 in the world. Galego says over 869,000 passengers embarked on cruise journeys out of the port in 2016 and that number is projected to grow to over 946,000 passengers in 2017, with total sailings projected to increase from 235 in 2016 to 257 this year.
The port is home to some of the most popular cruise lines in the world, including three Carnival Cruise Line vessels, two Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ships and a Disney Cruise Line vessel. If you’re looking to visit lush western Caribbean locales such as Cozumel, Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas, a visit to the Port of Galveston is likely in your future.
Plus, if you’ve recently bought a BMW, there’s a good chance it passed through the port following the establishment last year of the BMW Vehicle Processing Center, which handled about 16,000 new Bimmers and Minis in 2016.