By Ernie Williamson
While studying government and politics at the University of Maryland, Barbara Fratila never imagined that one day she would be working in the traditionally male-dominated port and maritime industry.
She admits when she moved to Houston in 1981, she was not aware Houston had a port. “It seemed Houston was so far inland,” she says.
But after earning her J.D. from the South Texas College of Law and working in private practice, Fratila was hired as Assistant General Counsel for the Port of Houston Authority, where she worked on many of the construction contracts and legal issues surrounding the Bayport Container Terminal and other Port of Houston facilities.
“I learned very quickly how large the Port of Houston was,” she says.
The nine years of experience at the Port of Houston undoubtedly was a factor in her election to a 6-year term on the Port of Freeport Commission.
Sworn in on June 1, Fratila is the first woman to serve on the commission since the port’s governing authority was created in 1925 as the Brazos River Harbor Navigation District of Brazoria County.
Although still a male-dominated industry, the Port of Freeport also has women serving as Executive Director and Controller.
No match in size when compared to the Port of Houston, Freeport is still a leading port in the export of crude oil and natural gas liquids and ranked 6th in chemicals, 17th in foreign waterborne exports tonnage and 26th in containers.
Fratila was named chairman of the newly formed ESG&S committee. That’s “E“ for environment, ”S” for social, “G“ for governance and “S” for sustainability.
Commission Chairman Ravi Singhania formed the committee to show the community that the port takes seriously its role as an active community partner.
“This is an important step, which reflects our commitment to implementing leading ESG&S practices across the port’s business with added focus on being sustainable and socially responsible,” Singhania said in announcing the new committee.
“This endeavor creates sustainable opportunities for people, businesses and communities that we represent,” he says.
Fratila says the port just “wants to be a good neighbor.”
The ESG&S committee is made up of representatives from all facets of port operations and already has begun reviewing port practices.
According to Fratila, the goal is to make sure the port is “being the best it can be.”
When she isn’t dealing with port matters, Fratila still does work at the Furey Law Firm, where she has been since its inception.
And if that isn’t enough, the Lake Jackson resident is a former director of the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, a director of Habitat for Humanity of Southern Brazoria County and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation of Southern Brazoria County.
At age 70, Fratila says she has no plans on slowing down.
“It took me a while to get where I wanted to be, so I plan on staying awhile,” she says.
(Contact Ernie at email@example.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516).