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USS Tripoli comes to Brownsville for scrapping

BY STEVE CLARK/The Brownsville Herald

Article published Thursday, July 19, 2018

Fifty-three years after it was launched from the Ingalls Shipbuilding yard in Pascagoula, Miss., the 598-foot amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LPH 10) is now in for dismantling by International Shipbreaking LLC, part of the EMR Group.

The vessel was decommissioned and struck from the naval register in 1995 after nearly 30 years in service. The Tripoli was one of seven Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ships, the first vessels of their type designed as helicopter carriers. LPH stands for “Landing Platform Helicopter.” The first ship of the class, the Iwo Jima (LPH 2), was scrapped in 1996 in Brownsville.

The Tripoli completed three deployments to Vietnam during its career and was the first amphibious warship to carry a full squadron of AV-8 Harrier short-takeoff/vertical-landing ground-attack jets.

The ship was deployed in late 1990 to the Persian Gulf in response to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. In February 1991, the Tripoli was struck by an Iraqi mine, which tore a massive hole in the ship’s starboard bow. Following one month of repairs, the Tripoli returned to the Persian Gulf to spearhead U.N. minesweeping operations.

In December 1992, the ship was sent to Somalia to wrest control of the city of Mogadishu from Somali warlords in Operation Restore Hope, the Tripoli’s Marines going ashore in a night landing to secure the city’s airports and seaports.

Two years later, the ship was back in the Persian Gulf as an initial U.S. show of force in response to Iraq again massing troops along the Kuwaiti border. The presence of the Tripoli and other U.S. warships as part of Operation Vigilant Warrior resulted in Iraq withdrawing its forces from the border.

The Tripoli earned 19 awards during its career, including four Navy Unit Commendations, three Combat Action Ribbons, three Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and Southwest Asia Service Medal.

The ship was loaned to the Army after decommissioning, and in 2006 was towed to Pearl Harbor for use as a launch platform in ballistic missile tests. The Tripoli was berthed in San Francisco until joining the Beaumont Reserve Fleet in April 2015. On May 26, it arrived in Brownsville from Beaumont.

In August 2016, the U.S. Maritime Administration designated the Tripoli for scrapping.

Among the many Navy ships International Shipbreaking has dismantled are the aircraft carriers USS Constellation and USS Ranger. Work on the USS Independence is underway.

Chris Green, International Shipbreaking senior manager, acknowledged that the Tripoli has “significant sentimental meaning to the men and women who served our country and spent a part of their lives with her.”

“She will be recycled in a safe, respectful and environmentally responsible manner,” he said.

Hopes High for a Bountiful Shrimping Season

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – With the 2018 Gulf shrimp season under way, local shrimpers are hopeful they will not come back with their nets empty despite a continued shortage of workers that plagues the industry.

For the 13th consecutive year, Reverend Mark Watters led the traditional Blessing of the Fleet July 10, at the Port of Brownsville’s fishing harbor. During his sermon, Rev. Watters asked the dozens of people gathered to pray for a bountiful harvest this season and for the well-being of all shrimpers while they are out at sea. The shrimping season began July 16.

The industry continues to battle with a shortage of workers due to the lack of H-2B worker visas issued by the federal government. Andrea Hance, executive director for the Texas Shrimp Association, said for this year there were more than 200,000 visa applicants, but only 66,000 visas were made available for distribution.

“The Department of Labor released an extra 15,000 visas, but that is just a drop in the bucket,” Hance said. “Only about 30 percent of the local fleet received approval for worker visas for this season, so most of our shrimpers are going without an adequate workforce,” she added.

Still, the TSA predicts an average season this year with high hopes of bringing back their trawlers full of the coveted Texas jumbo shrimp, which is the most valuable shrimp on the market.

“We provide the big jumbo shrimp of the world, basically,” Hance said. “Texas shrimp is more valuable because of its size. Our shrimp are larger, so they bring the highest marketable profit domestically,” she added.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, every year the waters off Texas close for at least 60 days to shrimp fishing to allow brown shrimp to reach a larger and more valuable size for the shrimping industry while ensuring sustainable stocks in the future.

The fishing harbor at the Port of Brownsville is home to approximately 180 shrimp boats, which represents more than 30 percent of the entire Texas shrimping fleet comprised of 550 vessels.

The port’s fleet catches approximately 13 million pounds of shrimp each year with an estimated value of $72 million, reports the TSA. Additionally, the local shrimp industry supports 1,400 jobs in Cameron County.


Reverend Mark Watters prepares to bless the shrimping fleet during the traditional Blessing of the Fleet July 10 at the Port of Brownsville’s fishing harbor. The shrimping season began July 16.

Duro Bag: A Story of Success

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — The secret is out of the bag for Duro.

The company, a tenant of the Port of Brownsville since 1967, is a premier leader in the paper bag industry with approximately 2.5 billion paper bags manufactured annually for the grocery, retail, convenience and food markets.

“We are a small jewel at the Port of Brownsville,” said Frank Fernandez, plant manager at Duro Bag. “Our mission is to be the preeminent manufacturer of paper bags offering quality, innovative solutions and complete satisfaction to our customer base,” he added.

Duro Bag has a rich history of both manufacturing process creativity and product innovation with several current and pending patents in addition to more than 20 industry trademarks.

Since 2014, the company has been part of the Novolex family, a leading producer of plastic, paper and film products headquartered in Hartsville, South Carolina, with nearly 10,000 employees and 62 manufacturing facilities across North America and Europe.

Duro Bag is the only manufacturing facility at the Port of Brownsville that is non-maritime related.

Despite not using docks and the ship channel, the port’s other infrastructure, namely rail, has served Duro well. This strategic location has helped the company become an important driver of Brownsville’s manufacturing industry contributing about $2.9 million annually in wages and taxes to the local economy.

The company employs 106 people locally, produces approximately eight million paper bags a day, and deploys about 12-15 trucks with its product to customers in Texas, Arizona, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and other parts of Southwestern U.S. Some of Duro’s customers from the food industry include Chick-fil-A, Dairy Queen, Wendy’s, Whataburger and Wingstop restaurants.

Being an environmentally friendly corporation is top priority for the Novolex family.

For more than 50 years, Duro Bag has focused on reducing and reusing waste at its manufacturing operations by recycling 100 percent of the kraft and bleached paper waste from the production process. According to Fernandez most of the paper bags produced by the plant are made of 100 percent recycled paper. The plant receives on average about 25 trucks of recycled paper a week from the U.S. and Mexico and one railcar every other week.

Demand for paper bags is pushing the company to expand its production capabilities. In the past three years the company has spent $1.1 million in capital investments with approximately half a million more this year at the Brownsville plant, bringing equipment and making other infrastructure upgrades to its 205,000 sq. ft. facility. The company currently leases 13.84 acres of land near the port’s turning basin.

And they are expanding their workforce too. Duro Bag is currently looking to hire more employees to work on the production lines to increase production and keep up with demand. Fernandez hopes in time to bring productivity up to the plant’s total capacity of 12 million bags a day.

“Our biggest success is that we’ve managed to invest money in the plant and at the same time remain profitable by making sure we get our efficiencies right and treat our people right,” Fernandez said. “This helps us have the ability to provide more and more jobs,” he said, which shows the company’s continued loyalty and commitment to the Rio Grande Valley.



Duro Bag, a tenant of the Port of Brownsville since 1967, is a premier leader in the paper bag industry with approximately 2.5 billion paper bags manufactured annually for the grocery, retail, convenience and food markets.

New Captain of the Port for USCG Regional Sector

The U.S. Coast Guard Sector/Air Station Corpus Christi held a change-of-command ceremony May 5, where Capt. Edward Gaynor relieved Capt. Tony Hahn as commander of the sector.

Capt. Gaynor will now oversee South Texas waterways from the Port of Brownsville to Port Lavaca. His previous assignment was as the chief of incident management, 1st Coast Guard District.

Capt. Hahn was commander of the Corpus Christi sector since 2015. His next assignment is the chief of staff, Coast Guard Pacific Area.

On May 23, Capt. Gaynor paid his first visit to the Port of Brownsville as Captain of the Port and met with local authorities and port officials who briefed him on the port’s current maritime activity.

The change-of-command ceremony is a time-honored tradition and deeply rooted in Coast Guard and Naval history. The event signifies a total transfer of responsibility, authority and accountability for the command.


Capt. Edward Gaynor relieves Capt. Tony Hahn as commanding officer of Sector/Air Station Corpus Christi during a change-of-command ceremony, May 4, 2018. Capt. Gaynor’s previous assignment was as the chief of incident management, 1st Coast Guard District.
(Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)

TransMontaigne to Invest $60M in Expansion Projects

TransMontaigne Partners L.P. is investing approximately $60 million in terminaling and pipeline expansion projects at its Port of Brownsville facilities, the company announced May 9.

The investment was made possible after securing agreements with third parties for the construction of new facilities in Brownsville for the storage of gasoline, diesel and additives for further transportation by truck and the Diamondback Pipeline to the U.S./Mexico border.

The Diamondback pipeline consists of an 8-inch pipeline that previously transported propane approximately 16 miles from the TransMontaigne facilities in Brownsville to the U.S./Mexico border and a parallel 6-inch pipeline that has been idle and can be used to transport additional refined products.

The company expects the first tanks of the additional storage capacity under construction to be completed and ready for commercial service by the end of 2018 and to recommission the Diamondback pipeline and resume operations by the end of 2019, with the additional storage capacity being completed and placed into commercial service at the same time.

John Reed Named BND Commission Chairman

Board honors outgoing Commissioner Carlos Masso and welcomes newly-elected Commissioner Esteban Guerra

BROWNSVILLE, Texas—John Reed was unanimously elected to serve as chairman of the Brownsville Navigation District (BND) during the board’s meeting Wednesday, May 16, 2018. Local businessman Esteban Guerra also was sworn in as the BND’s newest commissioner, along with John Wood, who served as the previous chairman and was reelected to his second four-year term on the commission on May 5.

Reed is chairman for two years and continues to serve alongside BND Vice Chairman Sergio Tito Lopez, Secretary Ralph Cowen, who were also unanimously elected to the serve as part of the executive board.

Outgoing Commissioner Carlos Masso, who did not seek reelection, welcomed Commissioner Guerra by placing a Port of Brownsville ceremonial lapel pin onto his jacket. Masso served as a BND commissioner for 12 years, including as chairman 2008-2010.

Reed previously served as chairman from 2010-2012.



Brownsville Navigation District Commission Chairman John Reed.


Deal advances $1.6 Billion Port steel mill; build-out brings 500 new jobs to Brownsville

(APRIL 24, 2018 – BROWNSVILLE, TX) The Brownsville Navigation District Board of Commissioners – the governing body for the Port of Brownsville – has signed an option agreement covering up to 800 acres of property with Big River Steel LLC enabling the steel-maker to continue its due diligence pursuant to the company’s interest in developing a LEED-certified steel manufacturing plant, storage and distribution facility. The plant would cost more than $1.6 billion to construct.

“This is good news for Brownsville and the result of hard work by many individuals and organizations over a long period of time. Our rail partner OmniTRAX played an important role in introducing this opportunity to the port,” stated John Wood, Chairman of the BND. “We are excited about this step forward and remain confident the venture will be beneficial for all parties, for Brownsville and the Rio Grande Valley.

“The addition of 500 new full-time local jobs, and the impact of those jobs in terms of retail spending, services, and new housing impacts represent a transformational moment for Brownsville and the Valley,” Chairman Wood continued. Wood expects up to 1,500 construction workers would be needed to build the specialized steel plant.

Additional details will be provided as they become available.


About the Port of Brownsville

The Port of Brownsville is the only deepwater seaport directly on the U.S.-Mexico border, and the largest land-owning public port authority in the nation with 40,000 acres of land. It transships more steel into Mexico than any other U.S. port.

In 2017, the Port of Brownsville moved 10.6 million tons of cargo. The port’s Foreign Trade Zone No. 62 is currently ranked second in the nation for the value of exports, reporting more than $2.8 billion in exported goods in 2016. FTZ No. 62 has consistently ranked in the top three nationally since 2012, and this marks the second time in two years that it achieved the nation’s number two ranking.

With more than $43 billion worth of projects currently in the works, the Port of Brownsville is transforming the Rio Grande Valley by creating positive investment opportunities and jobs. Activity at the port is responsible for adding more than $2 billion to the regional economy, $3 billion to the Texas economy, and for the creation of more than 44,000 jobs.



Steve Tyndal                                                            Patty Gonzales

Senior Director                                                              Director of Communications

Port of Brownsville                                                       Port of Brownsville

956-346-3591                                                                956-346-4148                     

Port of Brownsville Strikes Gold in AVA Digital Awards

BROWNSVILLE — The Port of Brownsville was recognized with two prestigious 2018 AVA Digital Awards for design and content of its website and electronic newsletter.

The AVA Digital Awards is an international competition recognizing excellence by creative professionals responsible for the planning, concept, direction, design and production of digital communications.

The port’s website,, was honored with the 2018 AVA Gold Digital Award in the Web-Based Production category for government entities. The site, redesigned in 2017, is an improvement from the previous version and features a cleaner and more visually impactful design, providing visitors greater detail and information about the port. It also features enhanced content for marketing, media relations and public information. The site also includes information about the Brownsville Navigation District Board of Commissioners, meeting agendas and minutes, and important contact information.

The port’s e-newsletter, Port Matters, received the 2018 AVA Honorable Mention in the Interactive Communication category. Port Matters is a by-monthly publication featuring stories and trends related to the Port of Brownsville and the maritime industry. The e-newsletter also includes a calendar of events, videos and other multimedia related to the port.

The AVA Digital Awards are sponsored and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals, which consists of several thousand production, marketing, communication, advertising, public relations, and free-lance professionals.


The Port of Brownsville’s website was honored with the 2018 AVA Gold Digital Award in the Web-Based Production category for government entities.

Texas LNG Receives Letter of Support from USCG for proposed project

BROWNSVILLE — The United States Coast Guard found the Brownsville Ship Channel to be suitable for marine traffic resulting from Texas LNG’s planned liquefaction terminal at the Port of Brownsville.

In a letter of recommendation issued Feb. 26 to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Coast Guard concluded that the waterway is suitable to handle current and anticipated incremental traffic from the Texas LNG proposed facility.

The Houston-based company plans to construct an LNG export facility on a 625-acre site at the Port of Brownsville. The facility will enable the export of 4 million tonnes per annum of LNG to established and developing markets. The proposed terminal is being designed to accommodate LNG carriers with nominal LNG capacities up to 180,000 m3 and dimensions on the order of 977 feet long and 151 feet wide.

“After reviewing the information in the applicant’s Letter of Intent and Waterway Suitability Assessment and completing an evaluation of the waterway in consultation with a variety of state and local port stakeholders, I recommend that the Brownsville Ship Channel be considered suitable for accommodating the type and frequency of LNG marine traffic associated with this project,” said U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port, Captain R.A. Hahn, in his letter to FERC.

The Coast Guard considered not only Texas LNG’s expected LNG carrier traffic, but also recognized other traffic transiting through the Brownsville Ship Channel including offshore rigs, aircraft carriers, fishing vessels, recreational vessels, towing vessels, non-piloted barges, as well as potential traffic from other proposed LNG projects.

Full FERC approval and Final Investment Decision (FID) for the development of the Texas LNG liquefaction project proposed in Brownsville are expected in 2019, and first phase production of 2 million tonnes per annum of LNG is expected to begin in 2023.

Texas LNG has secured long-term offtake term sheets from LNG buyers in China, Southeast Asia and Europe, and is planning to begin pre-FID Detailed Engineering in 2018 upon closing of its current funding round.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s Letter of Recommendation can be downloaded through the following link: or from the Texas LNG website: