PORT ARTHUR, Texas — The ribbon is cut, and the headquarters are here. The Sabine Pilots, who help ships navigate their way up and down our waterways, officially have a new place to call home.
The Sabine Pilots Association opened its new facility Thursday off Jimmy Johnson Boulevard in Port Arthur.
With around 3,000 ships moving through Southeast Texas ports each year, the Sabine Pilots need the manpower and technology to be able to keep up.
A couple hundred people gathered Thursday outside the new building to celebrate its grand opening. Something Sabine Pilots president Charles Tweedel called a relief and major milestone.
"We're glad to finally be in a place that's purpose built and designed exactly for our needs as they exist today, and as we see them evolving in the future," Tweedel said.
Tweedel tells 12News the shipping industry is a major lifeline of the Southeast Texas economy and continues to grow locally as more ships navigate the Sabine-Neches waterway and use local ports.
He hopes the new center, which features multiple conference rooms, a library and chart room, nine bunk rooms and an exercise slash locker room, will allow the Sabine Pilots to attract more members and meet the shipping growth.
"We're finally getting to where we need to be to do our traffic management and our job assignments in a proper manner with enough pilots and the infrastructure that's here in Port Arthur," Tweedel said.
Tweedel said the local shipping business is ramping up, and just the other day, they moved capacity for three million barrels of crude oil.
It’s a prime example of why he says the new infrastructure and more pilots is crucial to support the heavily-relied upon shipping industry.
"Everything that you consume or that you purchase, be it all the commodities, the products, everything, it comes by ship. 95 percent of it comes by ship," Tweedel said.
Tweedel said more upgrades and expansions are in progress at local ports including the new $10 billion Golden Pass LNG Port in Sabine Pass.