2 steps forward; 2 steps back

Family-like feel: Cenac Marine Services withstands the test of time
May 31, 2017
Jimmie Blanchard
May 31, 2017
Family-like feel: Cenac Marine Services withstands the test of time
May 31, 2017
Jimmie Blanchard
May 31, 2017

The Port of Terrebonne’s building that houses federal agencies and the port itself is now officially open, marking what its director says is an important chapter in the facility’s development.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held last week to mark the opening of the port commission’s “Multi-Use Government Complex,” now home to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and the port commission itself.

“We are also negotiating for another Customs group, the Office of Field Operations,” said the port’s executive director, David Rabalais. “With our own offices in the building, that will mean five leases altogether on the building.”

An additional three acres of leasable land adjoins the building, Rabalais said.

Meanwhile, as the local economy begins its slow climb back to better health, some of the port’s tenants have indicated abilities to adapt to a changing economy.

Gulf Island Fabrication is diversifying the role they play, building vessels and products that are less geared for the offshore industry that has been a mainstay. Construction projects have ranged from wind farms to accommodation of the petrochemical industry.

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski has hailed the role Gulf Island is playing in manufacturing for his firm.

“They bring experience to the job, and we’re thrilled to add them as a partner,” said Grybowski, referring to the jackets for the first offshore windfarm being built by Gulf Island right here in Louisiana.

“They are diversifying their portfolio,” Rabalais said.

Another indication of a tenant’s adaptation to changing times is word that Oregon State University has granted a contingent intent to award Gulf Island construction of a Regional Class Research Vessel (RCRV) with an option for two additional 193-foot vessels.

“As we continue to explore areas outside our traditional sectors, we are excited to obtain this important project and we look forward to working closely with Oregon State University as they explore ways to enhance our environment for our way of life and for future generations beyond,” said Gulf Island president and CEO Kirk J. Meche.

Not all of the news from the port is good, however.

A major issue is the need for the Houma Navigation Canal to be dredged, and while some maintenance dredging has been arranged, an eventual deepening of the channel from 12 to 15 feet is going to be required for continued viability, Rabalais said. One tenant had a potential ship-repair job collapse because of inability to move the vessel to the port facility.

“We need more money,” Rabalais said. “We have $1 million allocated this year for dredging and it’s a guess how much we are actually going to need. It is a fight all the time, it is a never ending battle.”

Trying to do more with less, Rabalais said the port is working with local officials to determine how sediment that falls from the bases of barrier islands can be channeled away from the southernmost reaches of the marked waterway.

“Ten miles of Terrebonne Bay is open water,” he said. “If we can get rocks between the channel and Timbalier Island it would stop that migration of sand. It would maybe eliminate a couple of million dollars a year in dredging costs.”

But moving rocks in place has a hefty price tag as well, Rabalais noted.

Plans are continuing, meanwhile, for better tabulating of the cargo that moves through the port, which includes every waterway in Terrebonne Parish.

Meanwhile Rabalais is thankful for the good fortune that has shined on the port, and hopes continued legislation – such as pro-port packages that have moved through the state legislature, authored by State Sen. Norby Chabert – will continue, and that upstate Louisiana lawmakers will recognize the importance of port success not only to coastal parishes but to the state as a whole. •

Terrebonne port