As Port Freeport looks to embark upon its first major terminal development endeavor in four decades, officials of the Texas Gulf Coast port have scheduled a groundbreaking event for the Velasco Terminal project for Friday, Oct. 27.

‘This new project is a direct product of Port Freeport’s master planning effort and comes at a critical time in our port’s history in which unprecedented growth is taking place,’ said J.M. ‘Mike’ Lowery, chairman of the Brazos River Harbor Navigation District, which has jurisdiction over Port Freeport. ‘The Velasco Terminal will facilitate Port Freeport having a still-greater positive economic impact upon the community we serve.’

Numerous federal, state and local officials are expected to take part in the groundbreaking event, which is to include 10:00 a.m. ceremonies followed by lunch at the planned terminal site, weather permitting. The scheduled keynote speaker is Capt. William G. Schubert, immediate past administrator of the US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) and current president of Houston-based International Trade and Transportation Inc.

Port Freeport Executive Director A.J. ‘Pete’ Reixach Jr. said construction is slated to begin in January on the first phase of the Velasco Terminal, which is to include the port’s seventh cargo berth. Completion of that berth’s initial 800 feet length and related backland development is expected to take 18 to 24 months. The entire Velasco Terminal project is planned for a total of 2400 linear feet of berth space with approximately 100 acres of backland development that could handle as many as 800,000 to 1 million 20-foot-equivalent container units annually.

The Velasco Terminal plan already has attracted substantial interest from throughout the world, Reixach noted. Port officials expect to solicit formal proposals from prospective terminal operators by year’s end, he said. Until the terminal operator or operators are determined, many details, including development cost, remain undetermined. Design flexibility allows for development of a terminal to handle containerized and/or noncontainerized cargoes.

The terminal is being named in honor of the historic town that once was situated across the Brazos River from Freeport. Old Velasco, now part of Surfside Beach, was the site of Stephen F. Austin’s first colony in 1821. On June 26, 1832, it was the site of the Battle of Velasco, the first armed confrontation of the Texas war for independence. By 1836, Velasco was made temporary capital of the Republic of Texas and was the site of the signing of treaties ending hostilities between Texas and Mexico. Old Velasco was destroyed by a hurricane in 1875, and the town was partially rebuilt in 1891 some 4 miles upstream from the original site.