Port Isabel’s changing skyline could lead to some big revenue. The massive machinery parked at the port isn’t looking for oil, but they are bringing in money and foot traffic. Jose Francisco Atkinson has lived in the small coastal town of Port Isabel for 25 years.

“There’s many things that are different now,” he said. The new rigs are a big change he can’t ignore. He can see the oil rig ships from his front porch. “There’s many people that like to go out there to see them. The tourists go down there, but we hardly go,” Atkinson said. He noted he isn’t interested in seeing the rigs.

The small port is part of the Port Isabel-San Benito Navigation District. Port Manager Steven Bearden said these two massive oil rig ships have been there for two months. They’re not looking for oil. They’re docked until there’s work for the crews on board, out at sea.

The company that owns the rigs is paying a fee while they’re docked. “By having customers here, having long-term tenants that are renting the facilities on a long-term basis, takes care of the port’s operation needs, therefore the port does not have to tax. This port has not taxed since 1976,” Bearden said. The port has found its niche, Bearden said. It’s a good spot for oil rig-related business and it’s just a short drive from the jetties.

Companies can save a lot of money on fuel and time by avoiding a 17-mile trip to the Port of Brownsville. Bearden added he sees the rigs generating revenues for local businesses. “There’s several of the management group with the vessels that are coming into town and eating at the restaurants and the Prosafe, the ones with the accommodation rigs, their people are staying in hotels,” Bearden said.

Residents said they too notice an impact. “If there’s more tourism, it’s better for the community because sometimes we see there aren’t any people around. Even spring break is slowing down because the kids don’t want to come down anymore, since they are afraid of ending up in jail. Now with this, there’s more work at restaurants,” Atkinson said.

Perla Mendez said there’s also increased traffic on their street, both from those working on the rigs and those sightseeing. She said she doesn’t mind. “When there’s different platforms that come in, that’s when I go out there to take a look,” she said. It comes with the territory for the chance to get a glimpse of the sophisticated machines.