Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves port director and CEO, recently traveled to Panama with a delegation of Texas port leaders to explore growth opportunities.

The U.S.-Panama Business Council organized the trade mission June 13-14 so that high-level Panamanian government, business and canal leaders could meet with the Texas delegation to discuss current opportunities and the global outlook. 

The Panama Canal is a major shipping route for cargo and lay ships that call on the Port of Galveston. Panama also has a growing cruise industry with cruise ports at the Caribbean entrance to the canal in Colon and on the Pacific side near Panama City.

Rees said, “As the only cruise port in Texas, I was interested in learning how Galveston’s cruise industry could benefit from Panama’s growth as a homeport and port of call.

“Some of the major cruise lines that homeport in Galveston already transit through the Panama Canal. With the second cruise terminal in Panama opening this year on the Pacific side, could cruise lines homeporting there consider Galveston as a port of call?”

Of the 946 ships that called on Galveston in 2021, a number were cargo ships and lay ships that traveled through the canal. Shippers that carry wind, roll-on/roll-off, grain and other cargos to and from the Port of Galveston rely on the canal for efficient transport. The Panama Canal recorded 287 million tons of cargo and 13,300 vessel movements in 2021.

The Port of Galveston is a major Texas cargo port, moving almost 5 million tons in 2021. The Galveston Ship Channel ranks in the top 50 U.S. waterways for cargo tonnage. Galveston is one of 11 deep-draft ports in Texas that contribute to the state’s top national ranking for total waterborne tonnage.  

“I want to thank the council for organizing the meetings. I came away with a greater understanding of the country and of potential grown opportunities for both Texas ports and Panama,” Rees said.