Houston Ship Channel Industry Supports Channel Widening to Keep Two-Way Vessel Transport

Dredging Committee

2017 Texas Arrivals by Port

The Ship Channel Expansion Channel Improvement Project, a feasibility study by the Army Corp of Engineers known as the 216 Study, evaluates improvements to six segments on the Houston Ship Channel (HSC), including widening through the Bay Reach. Of this Bay Reach segment, there are two sections leading to the two container terminal channels: Bolivar Roads to Redfish Island, and Redfish Island to Morgan’s Point. Industry users in the port of Houston strongly support widening of the Bay Reach through Morgan’s Point to enable the increasingly larger vessels destined for Houston to transit with two-way movements.

The port of Houston is the largest U.S. port by foreign tonnage, the largest export port in the U.S., the largest container port in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, and is an integral part of the fourth-largest city in the U.S. It is a key national asset, and investments – or lack thereof – extend beyond regional impacts. A 2014 study by Martin Associates showed that the port of Houston’s national economic impact is $617 billion per year.

Houston continues to receive increasingly larger vessels, reflected in the growth of tons per vessel arrival, and represents about 50% of Texas’ deepdraft vessel arrivals and foreign waterborne tonnage. Container volumes have grown consistently over the past several years, thanks in part to the expansion of the Panama Canal completed in 2016 and the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in the Port Houston container terminals to ensure global competitiveness.

In addition, substantial investments continue to be made in our ports. A survey compiled by the American Association of Port Authorities in 2016 showed $128 billion in capital expenditures in Gulf ports between 2016 and 2020 – 88% of the total capital expenditures for U.S. ports.

It is essential that the Houston Ship Channel — a federal project — keeps pace with industry investment and growth. Houston port region businesses are working to keep members of Congress informed about the importance of widening the Houston Ship Channel to properly accommodate growing vessel sizes.

Six Study Segments for the 216 Study. Originally published August 2017 in HSC ECIP DIFR-EIS. Location labels added by Port Bureau.

Recommended Project Scenario: Widened Channel through Morgan’s Point

With the channel widened through the Galveston Bay and to Morgan’s Point, port users will see three vital benefits. These benefits are nationally, not just regionally, significant.
Large container vessels will be able to transit the channel with two-way traffic using maneuvers acceptable to the Houston Pilots.
Loaded Suezmax and Aframax vessels will also be able to meet in the channel. Current channel dimensions allow for a loaded and an unloaded vessel of these classes to pass, but not both loaded. This will benefit the liquid bulk terminals in the ship channel.
Daylight restrictions through Redfish Island will be lifted. This will allow daylight-only vessels, which includes many tankers, to begin or end their transit about two hours before or after their current time slots.

Not only does the Houston Ship Channel service the largest petrochemical manufacturing complex in the U.S., it is a core component of a complex logistics system implicit to national prosperity. It is vital that its maintenance and improvements uphold optimum industry utilization for sustainable success.

For more information, please email:
info@txgulf.org or call (713) 678-4300.

  • Date July 3, 2018
  • Tags 2018 June