Corpus Christi: Port Authority Seeks Federal Grant for $22 Million Dock Expansion
by Adolfo Pesquera
Corpus Christi (Nueces County) — The port authority commission approved a staff request to apply for a $17.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD) to modernize and expand Avery Point Oil Dock 3.
Leslie Ruta, the port’s strategic planner and grants developer, told commissioners at the Aug. 20 session that in-house engineers estimate the total cost is about $22 million, with contingencies. Since the grant program provides an 80% federal match, the Port of Corpus Christi Authority (POCCA) would have to come up with $4.4 million, if a grant is awarded.
“This is the gateway project to be able to do renovation to the other three (oil) docks, 4, 7 and 11,” Ruta said.
The docks are on average 55 years old, and although they have been well maintained over the decades, Ruta said they are at capacity and port clients complain of congestion.
If the project is financed, Ruta said the port’s investment would pay for itself in under a year because of the revenues that would come from the increased capacity.
Leslie Ruta, planner and grants developer for Port Corpus Christi.
Ruta was asked when staff would know if the award was granted. She prefaced her answer by noting that this was a new program for MARAD and they are seeking non-maritime advice on how to proceed.
“We’ve had several discussions with them, already,” she said. “We’re hoping that that speeds that up, since they’ve never done this kind of a grant. I’d like to think it would be by the end of the year.”
MARAD was authorized to award grants totaling $200 millions to ports like Port Corpus Christi. Another $80 million is available for the 15 largest U.S. ports that handle shipping containers, something Corpus Christi does not do.
Ruta said the port was able to respond quickly because in 2014 their engineers drafted several redevelopment scenarios.
“This was the smallest and least expensive of those plans,” she said. “At the same time (as the grant process), engineering is going to be undertaking a feasibility study that’s already in the 2019 budget to be able to determine what is the best configuration for the port and for the customers.”
Avery Point Oil Dock 3 is about 2 miles inside the port channel from the Harbor Bridge and Corpus Christi Bay.
The proposed project will double the barge berth capacity at Oil Dock 3, taking it from two to four berths. This expansion will allow POCCA to divert 90% Avery Point barge traffic from the other three Avery Point Docks (Oil Docks 4, 7, and 11) to Oil Dock 3, thereby increasing aggregate ship capacity at the other three docks by as much as 372 ships or 79%annually.
Ruta said this amounts to an overall increase of about 100 million barrels per year.
Because of the high utilization of the four aging docks, they cannot be decommissioned long enough to allow for reconstruction unless the berth capacity can be recreated elsewhere. The proposed expansion of Oil Dock 3 will create enough surplus capacity to allow for phased (one at a time) decommissioning and reconstruction of each of the three main Avery Point Docks.
Delivery of the grant funds is on a reimbursement basis, necessitating temporary capital outlays by the port over budget years 2020 and 2021.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.