Photo: Image Courtesy: Port Houston

Port Houston Makes Room for Bigger Containerships

The US Port Houston is seeing rapid growth in the size of ships calling its container facilities as a result of the completion of the widening and deepening of the Bayport Channel and work on what’s known as the Bayport flare. 

The port is expected to receive this week its largest containership to date, a 9,500 twenty-foot equivalent (TEU) vessel, according to Port Commission Chairman of the Port of Houston Authority Janiece Longoria.

“This is sign of the future for the container industry and we must continue to make the investments to handle these vessels of the next generation,” Longoria said.

Just last week, Port Houston received an 8,450 TEU vessel to Bayport. As another example of the growing demand, in July the port recorded the largest number of container lifts on one vessel in its history at 4,800 lifts. That record has since been shattered twice, the latest being earlier this month when more than 5,700 container moves were handled on one of the port’s East Asian services.

Several items acted on the agenda of the recently held meeting by the Port Commission further illustrated a commitment to investment to meet the port’s growing demand. They included the approval to accept a request for proposals to redevelop container yards at Barbours Cut Container Terminal, a recommendation to award the planning and design of the next phase of terminal development at Bayport and a recommendation to construct the rail spur into the Bayport container facility.

Port Houston concluded the month of August delivering strong results. Overall tonnage for the year at nearly 28 million tons reflects an 8 percent increase over last year. Steel tonnage remained steady through August, reflecting growth of 29 percent for the year. August container volume remained solid, but Executive Director Roger Guenther noted that comparisons to the same month last year at this time are skewed due to the effect of Hurricane Harvey with port operations closed for a week in August of 2017.

However, year-to-date activity continues to be strong with a port-wide increase of 11 percent overall in TEU. Loaded container units are up 10 percent compared to last year. Port Houston alone handles more than two-thirds of all US Gulf container traffic.

With the growth in larger ships that depend upon Houston, the importance to highlight the needs for improvements required for the Houston Ship Channel are emphasized by Port Houston’s leadership.

“Through our partnership with the Corps in the current Mega-Study that will conclude in 2019, we continue to highlight the need to widen the channel through the entire reach of Galveston Bay to handle increasing vessel sizes, and that the economic security of our nation is dependent upon safe, two-way traffic through the busiest waterway in the nation,” Longoria concluded.