The Port of Houston Authority, also known as Port Houston, is an autonomous governmental subdivision of the State of Texas and governing body and local advocate of the federal Houston Ship Channel.
More than 200 private and public terminals line the 52-mile-long Houston Ship Channel, including eight different terminals owned, managed, or leased by Port Houston, which include the general cargo terminals at the Turning Basin, Care, Jacintoport, and Woodhouse. Port Houston also includes the Barbours Cut and Bayport container terminals.
More than 200 million tons of cargo move along the Houston Ship Channel on 8,000 vessels and 200,000 barges yearly.
Tonnage Up 22% in 2022
The Houston Ship Channel and its facilities are ranked 1st in the U.S. in waterborne tonnage, 1st in U.S. imports, and 1st in U.S. export tonnage. Port Houston is also a leading breakbulk port and the largest container port on the Gulf of Mexico. In 2022, Port Houston container annual volume was up 14% over the prior year, reaching nearly 4 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs). Total tonnage was up 16% for the year, reaching nearly 53 million short tons—a new record for the port.
“The volumes we’ve experienced this year at Port Houston have been incredible, and we never wavered in our commitment to do our part to efficiently move cargo through our terminals,” said Roger Guenther, Executive Director, in a press release.
“The record growth seen over the last couple of years has been supported by continued investments in Port Houston terminals as well as the immense dedication of the Port Houston staff and ILA labor who are committed to moving our region’s cargo,” Guenther continued. “As we always have, as we head into 2023 we will continue to stay in front of the curve to provide exceptional service.”
By the Numbers
As one of the world’s busiest waterways, the Houston Ship Channel is a large and vibrant component of the regional economy. It’s estimated that Houston Ship Channel-related businesses contribute 1,350,695 jobs throughout Texas and generate more than $339 billion in statewide economic value. Additionally, nearly $5.7 billion in state and local tax revenues are generated by business activities related to the port.
The port’s top containerized export commodities include:
- Resins And Plastics – 40.50%
- Chemicals And Minerals – 20.00%
- Automotive – 8.7%
- Food and Drink – 6.2%
- Apparel and Accessories – 5.4%
- Machinery, Appliances and Electronics – 5.2%
- Steel And Metals – 4.7%
- Fabrics Incl. Raw Cotton – 4.5%
- Retail Consumer Goods – 2.0%
- Hardware and Construction Materials – 1.3%
- Furniture – 0.5%
- Other – 1.0%
And, Port Houston’s top containerized import commodities are:
- Machinery, Appliances and Electronics – 16.2%
- Retail Consumer Goods – 14.4%
- Hardware and Construction Materials – 12.9%
- Food And Drink – 11.6%
- Furniture – 11.0%
- Resins and Plastics – 7.4%
- Steel and Metals – 6.9%
- Automotive – 6.5%
- Chemicals and Minerals – 5.7%
- Apparel and Accessories – 4.2%
- Fabrics Incl. Raw Cotton – 1.8%
- Other – 1.4%
The port’s top containerized trading partner countries include China, Vietnam, and India for imports, and Belgium, Brazil, and China for exports.
According to gCaptain, Port Houston’s Bayport Container Terminal is currently preparing for the arrival of three new STS cranes and will wrap up construction on a new wharf later this year. Port Houston’s Barbours Cut Container Terminal is undergoing various improvements, the publication reports, with seven new RTG cranes arriving in November and seven more coming in January.
An Eye on Sustainable Growth
Port Houston is investing $1.4 billion in landside infrastructure over the next five years, and the recent completion of the first segment of the Houston Ship Channel Expansion – Project 11 is expected to increase safety, reduce congestion and improve vessel transit times by approximately an hour by reducing daylight restrictions, gCaptain reports.
Project 11 will widen the channel by 170 feet along its Galveston Bay reach, from 530 feet to 700 feet. It will also deepen some upstream segments to 46.5 feet and include safety improvements and new environmental features. When complete, Project 11 should add more than $133 million annually in national economic value and allow the larger Neo-Panamax vessels to use the port.
Port Houston—which has reduced its carbon footprint by 55% since 2016—is also advancing its efforts to include sustainability in its overall strategic goals. In 2022, the port announced its commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050 and is currently upgrading its technology, improving its equipment and using more alternative fuels and clean energy sources.