Captain’s Corner – The Hidden Jewel of Houston

Eyes are on Houston this month as hundreds of thousands of visitors pour into town for Super Bowl LI, an event that will already be football history by the time you read this. Organizers will have already hit the reset button on NRG Stadium to squeeze in the Houston RV Show before readying it for another favorite big-time event -- the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.

Amidst all the hubbub, the New York Times described our city as a “transformed Houston”. Commenting on the local business climate impacted by dropping oil prices, the Times credited the Port of Houston as one of the essential factors in keeping the city floating in a positive direction through economic uncertainties.

Photo by Port of Houston Authority

But what do visitors really know about the port region? I got to thinking about how I might go about introducing newbies face-to-face to our 52-mile economic engine. Houston is emerging as an attractive destination point for visitors globally, and the pivotal role of the Houston Ship Channel is an integral as well as fascinating part of the story of the Bayou City.

Catching more than a fleeting glimpse of the Ship Channel can be challenging for the non-mariner. There are the fast glances as travelers zip over one of the bridges on their way to somewhere else. A lucky moment might show busy tugs or a chemical tanker easing by. If drivers are heading south on the Fred Hartman Bridge into LaPorte, the arresting view of the big cranes at Barbours Cut can be easily observed.

But are viewers able to put what they see into context? It’s amusing that the cranes resemble a T-Rex right out of Jurassic Park, making them a curious landmark on the drive to Kemah, perhaps. It’s better, however, to understand the true nature of the mysterious metal beasts. Does the passerby realize the tallest cranes are 30 stories high? That they are zipping past the largest container cranes in the U.S.? Can they guess that if the crane is down, operators are “working a vessel”; if it is up, it is idle for the moment? How about that, in a feat comparable to one of Superman’s, the cranes can lift two loaded containers simultaneously, with up to 72 tons of cargo inside?

We’re here to keep you well-informed so I challenged the staff to find some ways to improve on the fast drive-by method of getting acquainted with the Houston Ship Channel, and we have come up with some fun approaches to put our waterway on the visitor’s map. Check out “Uncovering the Course of Houston’s Hidden Ship Channel” on page 12 to see what you think of our unique guide. I’d love to hear from you with anything you’d like to add. We want your thoughts on the best way to get acquainted with Houston’s hidden jewel.

It’s really too bad the rodeo trail rides don’t include pulling the wagons past the Turning Basin. The trail ride tradition started in 1952 to raise awareness for the rodeo. Maybe we, as the maritime community, should add our own trail ride for the recognition and posterity of the Houston Ship Channel. Like many of the trail riders, we could showcase a little history along the way. Time to giddy-up, mariners!

  • Date February 14, 2017
  • Tags February 2017