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Patrick Nwachokor
Port Houston

Port of Houston Authority Bayport Cruise Terminal Transformation into a Ro-Ro Terminal: A Business Success

Cruising out of the Port of Houston is almost as old as the port itself. The first regular passenger service was inaugurated in December 1922. Modern cruise business began in 1997 when Norwegian Cruise Line (“NCL”) began service out of the Port of Houston Authority's Barbours Cut Terminal. The cruises proved so popular that as plans for a new container terminal at Bayport were developed, a larger cruise terminal was included. A successful bond election to finance construction of Bayport was held in 1999 and planning for the new facilities, including a new cruise terminal, went into full swing. Unexpectedly, NCL pulled its ship out in 2000 but returned in 2003, and ground was broken at Bayport in 2004. Suddenly NCL left again in 2007. After spending $108 million (approximately a third each for the building, the dock and the utilities), the cruise terminal was ready in 2008 with no cruise lines to use it. After years of trying to generate business for the cruise terminal, Port Houston’s management realized that continuing to do so would not yield favorable results. This paper examines the Port of Houston's experience in the cruise business, and how the Port of Houston Authority turned its investment into a successful new business opportunity. It took a careful, step-by-step strategy based on creativity, flexibility, thorough research, intelligence gathering and solid marketing.

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