Everything you wanted to know about the Port
Last week I got to attend a Houston Economics Club
luncheon with Captain William Diehl speaking as the President of the Greater Houston Port Bureau
. He not only showed us a very impressive real-time Google Earth image with every ship anywhere near Houston (zoom, pan, flyover - all very cool), but also rolled off a string of impressive facts about the Port:
- Houston is the #1 most active U.S. port with ~8,000 ship movements per year. NOLA is #2 at ~6,800, and both LA and NYC are in the ~4,000 range.
- Houston is #2 in tonnage just behind New Orleans, although they implied that NOLA might be doing a little double counting as ships move up and down the Mississippi to and from Baton Rouge. Texas City is #10 nationally.
- Galveston moves ~1 million cruise passengers a year, and mints money off of the parking for those cruises. Houston recently secured a couple of new cruise ship contracts for the $108m white elephant Bayport terminal.
- Galveston Bay is only 12 feet deep, but they have to dredge the channel to 45 feet deep. Evidently they need $50m a year to keep up the dredging, and send $130m a year in fees to the Feds to do it, but the Feds only send back $20m a year to do the job - much less allocate enough for us to deepen the channel to open it up to larger ships. So, yes, the Federal government is screwing Texas, again.
- 70% of the the containers coming through the Gulf of Mexico go to or from Houston. I was surprised to hear that the imports almost exclusively serve Houston, San Antonio, and Austin - nothing further inland. Even Dallas gets their containers by rail from LA. There is some thought we could seize that opportunity with more rail capacity north to Dallas, but the railroads are resisting because they make more money moving containers longer distances from LA.
- Unlike many other major U.S. ports, Houston has lots of room to grow, and this has been and continues to be attractive to big shippers.
- Houston handles 200,000 barge movements a year. Those barges go all over the eastern U.S. using the inter-coastal waterway and the river network.
- 96% of all imported Volkswagens come through Houston, many from Mexico in addition to Germany. If you've ever driven northbound over the 610 Ship Channel Bridge and wondered about the giant parking lot with thousands of cars to your left, that's what it is.
- 60% of the Port's business is petrochemicals. Cheap natural gas is rapidly growing that business with $10 billion in new projects, while increased domestic oil production is reducing import tankers.
- The Panama Canal expansion will allow 8,000 TEU ships instead of 4,500 TEU ships, which means much bigger ships with lower prices per TEU will be calling on Houston, although probably not more numbers of ships. It will also enable the export of more petrochemicals to Asia.
- Houston and Texas manufactures enough products we can actually fill quite a few containers for return trips to Asia, which is an advantage over CA ports, where ships often return empty.
If that's not enough for you, you can read more about the Port here
, and here
, as well as take a boat tour here
. It's truly an impressive asset for Houston, albeit one most of us non-eastsiders are rarely aware of.
Labels: economic strategy, port, rankings