April 2018 Commerce Club Luncheon Featuring Matt Woodruff, Vice President, Kirby Corporation

Houston feels the flow of nation’s inland waterways

Matt Woodruff
Kirby Corporation

Matt Woodruff, vice president of public & government affairs at Kirby Corporation, presented an update on regional and national shallow draft issues at the Port Bureau’s April 12 Commerce Club Luncheon at Houston Marriott South.

Beginning with current vessel traffic scheduling (VTS) statistics, Woodruff described the progress industry partnerships have made in the ability to accommodate more and safer tug/tow movements on the Houston Ship Channel (HSC).

“When I started out, I was told to expect two to three collisions each year,” Woodruff said. “I don’t see that happening.” Explaining that ships tend to move faster than tows, Woodruff emphasized the value of the HSC barge lanes and the work of industry to allow everyone to operate at the right speed. “It has greatly reduced accidents and improved safety and efficiency,” he added.

Applauding the industry’s refusal “to take ‘no’ for an answer”, Woodruff noted the important projects completed that have facilitated improvement on the regional waterways, such as the replacement of the old Galveston bridge. The biggest regional project currently targeted is the Brazos River Flood Gates. “They were set up prior to World War II, and they are not right for today,” said Woodruff. The goal is to improve safety and navigation efficiency at the Brazos River Floodgates and the Colorado River Locks location on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

Shifting his focus to shallow draft issues on the national level, Woodruff directed attention to the data highlighted in a newly-released brochure from the National Waterways Foundation. A mapped chart in the brochure illustrated that commerce in 18 states and 175 counties, including Harris County, is “immediately affected” by any disruption to the Markland Locks and Dam on the Ohio River. “If you hear about shallow draft anywhere, you hear about it everywhere,” Woodruff stated.

Woodruff stressed several important economic factors from the Waterways Foundation data, particularly the efficiencies of barge-moved commodities. He also underscored the importance of supporting the 2018 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). “We are impacted in Houston by virtually every waterway issue in the country,” concluded Woodruff.

  • Date June 6, 2018
  • Tags 2018 May