Last week, KTRK-13 had a brief report that the first cruise ship had finally arrived at the five-year old Bayport Cruise terminal.
We were surprised at the brevity of the report, since former KTRK reporter Wayne Dolcefino had a series of reports on the cruise terminal bondoggle and other Port of Houston follies a couple of years ago.
Since the building opened in 2008 at a cost of $108 million public dollars, only cargo ships and a few Hurricane Ike relocated cruises have used the building. The Port claims to have broken even, but Port leaders promised hundreds of jobs and millions in returned investment.
The port gave Princess Cruises $685,000 of your money just to show up. That’s $25,370 per cruise. Next year, Princess will get $80,000 per cruise — a 214% increase. That kind of incentive is unheard of in the cruise industry according to Eyewitness News calls to US ports and interviews with port industry insiders.
Norwegian Cruise Line got an even sweeter incentive deal; they’ll be here next year.
In July 2013 when the Port was pushing through the increased incentive deal, an economic report promised 736 jobs over three years (See the document in the slide show). By this month when the cruise ship sailed, a Port press release dropped it to “more than 200.” When asked, the Port didn’t explain the difference.
The projections for these boondoggles never pan out, of course, but local media engage in this sort of accountability journalism too infrequently. Kudos to Oberg and KTRK for following up, and to Wayne Dolcefino for calling attention to the boondoggle in the first place.