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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Port of Brownsville Tour

Port Isabel Lighthouse
The Port of Brownsville in south Texas is known for its ship dismantling and offshore-drilling-rig construction and repair as well as its intermodal facilities.

We recently took a boat tour through the port and thoroughly enjoyed a close-up view of its operations. We’ve viewed it from nearby Highway 48 many times but the advantage of the tour was learning the names of the boats. We had taken a tour with Dolphin Docks several years ago before the aircraft carriers were brought in for dismantling.

The morning fog and wind didn't discourage us at all and, luckily, the sun came out midway through our cruise.

Shrimp boat heading out the channel
The Port of Brownsville repairs and/or dismantles approximately 300 ships per year and it is expected to double the load in the next few years. The intermodal port moves more than $3 billion of goods per year. It is one of the top free-trade-zone ports in the country.

Although shrimping is no longer the huge industry it was, the port is home to several hundred fishing boats. The shrimp basin is just to the north of the port facilities. Although I love taking photos of shrimp boats, I always recognize that shrimping can be a harsh way to make a living.
Drilling rig under construction

Once we traveled the 17-mile channel from the Gulf of Mexico at South Padre Island, we saw a number of ships at various stages of dismantling.

Three aircraft carriers are in process: the former USS Constellation, USS Ranger and the USS Saratoga. We saw a couple of destroyer tenders: the USS Yellowstone and the USS Shenandoah. We passed two vehicle -landing ships; the USS Comet and USS Meteor, both partially dismantled.
Ships being dismantled

Once we passed all the ships and turned around, the crew served a dinner of fresh jumbo shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn on the cob. Crew members did a great job entertaining and feeding us.

If you visit South Padre Island, the 4-hour Port of Brownsville Tour is worth your time and money. We took the Breakaway Cruise tour but the Port tour is available from several different companies, some with food, some without. Prices vary accordingly.
Before the cooking started

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