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Port Report: Houston looks to start expansion efforts by 2021

Port of Houston’s Bayport Container Terminal ( Photo: Port of Houston )

The Port of Houston is going forward on boosting its container capacity with plans to purchase three new ship-to-shore cranes and to study a widening and deepening project for the ship channel. 

The Port of Houston Authority said it signed a $35 million contract for three neopanamax cranes to be installed at the Bayport Container Terminal. The cranes are expected to be operational in the summer of 2021 and will be the tallest to date for the Port of Houston at 158 feet under the spreader.

The cranes are capable of handling ships up to 18,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in capacity. The three cranes will bring the Port of Houston’s fleet of ship-to-shore cranes to 29 cranes in total.

Houston’s container throughput is one of the strongest in the U.S. thanks to strong export growth from the region’s petrochemical manufacturers. Year-to-date TEUs handled in through August totaled nearly two million, an increase of 11 percent compared to this time last year. Port officials expect Houston’s total container throughput to near three million by the end of this year.

But the narrowness of Houston’s ship channel and 45-foot water depth limit Houston to mostly handling ships of 6,000- to 8,000-TEU capacity. 

To that end, the Port Authority also awarded a $5.5 million professional services contract for “engineering, design and project coordination” on the widening and deepening of the ship channel. 

Due to the demand for increased capacity and larger ships, the Port of Houston said it proposed an expedited schedule for dredging to begin by 2021 and the project to be completed in 2024.

The channel widening, along with deepening in some sections, is the eleventh and next majorship channel expansion project. The last widening and deepening of the channel was completed in 2005.

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