Houston Ship Channel Nearing Greater Capacity

The Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority met virtually in regular session last Tuesday. Port Chairman Ric Campo opened the meeting by sharing the “good news” that the Houston Pilots have taken the first step towards bringing longer vessels to the Houston Ship Channel.

Following the vote of 96% of the Houston Pilots in favor of bringing larger vessels to the channel, Chairman Campo reported that the Houston Pilot Board met last week to hear public comment on the matter. Joining with cargo industry members, including representatives of the petrochemical and container industry, Chairman Campo expressed his support of a Pilot Board rule to permit the change.

The rule would allow pilots to bring ships up to 1,120 feet in length to Port Houston’s Bayport and Barbours Cut terminals.

Chairman Campo added that allowing these larger ships to call Houston will result in “more cargo and more jobs” and economic benefits for the entire Gulf region. Chairman Campo congratulated Houston Pilots Presiding Officer Captain Robert Thompson and the other pilots for gaining the experience to permit this change.

Chairman Campo also mentioned that the Port Commission met in a special session last week and authorized the Executive Director to negotiate the Project Partnership Agreement, or PPA, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Project 11, the latest Houston Ship Channel expansion program.

Port Houston’s leadership team recommended a PPA that could include all of the separable elements of the channel project, except for the reach of the Galveston Bay between Bayport and Barbours Cut.

Port Houston June 22 Regular Meeting highlights:

The Port Commission approved a nearly $37 million contract to purchase three dockside electric container cranes for Wharf No. 6 at Bayport. This new equipment and container yard are all part of the Bayport terminal 6, a $200 million development plan, to stay ahead of the continuing growth in cargo volume.

Port Houston continues to focus on sustainability as it facilitated three Sustainability Action Team workshops in June. Port Houston will also soon participate in the Future of Global Energy Conference, sponsored jointly by the Greater Houston Partnership and Center for Houston’s Future.

This month Port Houston joined the International Energy Agency’s Clean Energy Ministerial in launching a Global Hydrogen Ports Coalition, to advance global collaboration aimed at accelerating the use of hydrogen at shipping ports. Port Houston has also joined the BlueSky Maritime Coalition as a founding member, to target decarbonization in shipping through operational efficiency, policy, finance, and technology innovations.

Executive Director Roger Guenther said in his staff report, “Cargo tonnage continues to soar at Port Houston facilities.” Port Houston terminals have recorded an increase of 8% over last year, with a total of 1,315,166 TEUs so far in 2021. This is a 9% increase over a previous record year in 2019. “It seems that every week we are setting new records,” Guenther added.

Port Houston will launch its Business Equity procurement initiative in July. “We plan to provide an update to commissioners in July of those projects targeted for contract goal-setting, to support Small and Minority- and Woman-owned Business participation in Port Houston projects,” Guenther said.

The next Port Commission meeting is scheduled for July 20.