September Commerce Club: Deeper, Wider Ship Channel for Safety, Prosperity

Featuring Ric Campo, Chairman of the Port Commission, Port of Houston Authority

Ric Campo

“Looking Ahead at the Houston Ship Channel” was the timely topic presented by Port Commission Chairman Ric Campo, at the Commerce Club luncheon hosted by the Greater Houston Port Bureau on September 12.

Campo stressed Port Houston’s mission to drive regional prosperity during his talk. “Port Houston, as an entity, improves the quality of lives in our region,” Campo explained. “Quality of life starts with jobs and providing business opportunities to get a fair wage. We’re about improving people’s lives.”

As the non-federal sponsor of the Houston Ship Channel (HSC), the Port of Houston Authority relies on working in partnership with the Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Houston Pilots, and the stakeholders of the Ship Channel industry. Immense growth is projected for HSC industry, particularly in crude exports, resins exports, propane exports, and container exports/imports.
We’re going to have more growth, and we have to be prepared for that growth,” said Campo. “What growth means is not just more money for companies; it means more jobs. It means more opportunities for people to move up in organizations and create more value for themselves and their families.”

Focusing attention on Ship Channel improvements needed to protect and ensure sustainable industry growth, Campo illustrated the direct correlation between HSC width/depth and commerce development. His charting showed that as the Ship Channel has deepened over ten decades, cargo and population expanded, increasing overall commerce.

“We have to deepen and widen the Channel because of this next slide,” stressed Campo, as he addressed the expected surge in hydrocarbon exports. Of concern is the complications that could be created in the supply chain if the smooth flow of hydrocarbon exports is not maintained. “We cannot pump out of the ground in the Permian Basin, and send it to Houston and process it, and use it. It has to be exported. If it doesn’t get exported, it backs up the supply chain all the way to the Permian Basin. It has to be exported out to create value, long-term, for the supply chain.”

Maintaining two-way traffic on the Ship Channel is the means of providing competent support for exporting these hydrocarbons. “If we don’t deepen and widen, that log jam will reach all the way back through the supply chains,” said Campo. He also believes a deeper, wider waterway is a safer waterway. “We want to protect people and we want to protect the environment. The way to do that is to have a deeper and wider Channel to move ships through more efficiently.”

A 2015 Corps of Engineers Study funded by the Port of Houston Authority and now in review put improvements completion in 2036. Campo rejects this slow timeline. “When you are sitting here in 2019 — and you think that it might take ten years to get this done — you think that is totally unacceptable, given the current situation we have concerning safety issues and with economic issues.”

The most effective way to accomplish proposed improvements for the Houston Ship Channel is through teamwork. “We have a plan to accelerate the program,” said Campo. “That plan will get us started turning dirt by 2021 . . . what it involves, though, is creating a public-private partnership that means we have to spend more of our own money.”

Campo summed up his thoughts, calling on industry to join him taking a better, faster solution to Washington. “It’s called advocacy. Everybody in this room singing out of the same hymn book, talking about safety, long-term growth, national security . . . [It’s] all about getting this done for the citizens of Houston to create jobs and a safe environment for the future,” Campo concluded. “We need your help and we want your help. It is really appreciated.”

  • Date October 8, 2019
  • Tags 2019 September