Thanks to diversification, ports along the Texas Gulf Coast are managing to stay energized despite the recent softness in the upstream oil and gas sector.
Whether counting on containerized goods, forest products, vehicles or a different kind of energy – wind – to keep docks bustling, ports of the Lone Star State are finding that not relying solely upon oil and gas is a rewarding strategy. Also, deeper channels are on the agenda at a few Texas ports.
Here’s a rundown of recent developments at leading Texas ports, starting a few miles west of the Louisiana state line, then meandering down the Gulf Coast to just north of the U.S.-Mexico border:
Port of Port Arthur With May approval by local voters of an $89.95 million navigation district bond issue, the Port of Port Arthur is moving forward with infrastructure enhancements and is in position to be able to acquire additional land and advance more projects in the future.
The biggest current undertaking is the $35 million to $40 million endeavor to provide a new 1,000-foot-long berth, enabling the Port of Port Arthur to more fully benefit from the federally authorized deepening to 48 feet from 40 feet of the Sabine-Neches Waterway, which links the port with the Gulf of Mexico. The dock expansion is slated to be finished in late 2017, while the channel project awaits congressional appropriation.
The Port of Port Arthur, which recently completed a 6,500-foot rail car storage facility, continues its forest products strength, with exports of kraft linerboard and wood pellets and imports of Brazilian wood pulp, while handling domestic moves of mats for the oilfield industry and staying at the center of military cargo movement and readiness exercises.
Port of Beaumont
Celebrating the 100-year anniversary of its recognition as a deepwater port, the Port of Beaumont, up the Neches River from Port Arthur, continues to be the No. 1 U.S. military cargo port in the world and, with $70 million in projects, is assertively expanding marine, rail and roadway infrastructure for handling bagged goods, forest products, steel, aggregate, wind energy components, bulk grains, project cargo and crude oil.
Additionally, on the river’s east bank, across from longstanding Jefferson County facilities, the Port of Beaumont, in partnership with private industry, has just finished the $300 million Jefferson Energy Beaumont Terminal on 250 acres in Orange County. The liquid bulk petroleum product terminal features expansive rail infrastructure capable of handling 120-car unit trains for three Class I railroads, plus seven storage tanks, a pipeline, barge and ship docks, a blending facility and a truck terminal.
The Port of Beaumont’s $500 million, 10-year master facilities plan includes further infrastructure projects in both Jefferson and Orange counties.
Port of Houston
The No. 1 U.S. foreign tonnage port, the Port of Houston is bolstering its position in trans-Pacific container trade with, beginning in June, Bayport Container Terminal receiving the first inbound port calls of a new 2M Alliance offering that integrates Maersk Line’s TP18 and Mediterranean Shipping Co.’s Lone Star Express services from China and South Korea transiting the expanded Panama Canal. It is Houston’s third such direct Asia service.
Strong container, automotive and bulk cargo activity has helped the Port of Houston offset declines, including a drop in tubular steel imports, associated with the recent downturn being experienced by the oil and gas industry.
The Port of Houston Authority is not waiting on the latest U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study of maintaining the Houston Ship Channel at its authorized depth of 45 feet or more to fund its own channel improvements, including dredging at berthing areas, as well as a cost-shared project that should make it easier for deepdraft vessels to pass through an area known as the Bayport Flare.
Port of Texas City
The oil and gas industry slump has taken a bit more of a toll on the less-diversified Port of Texas City, located toward the Gulf of Mexico from Houston, at the “Y” of the ship channel.
The port, which handled nearly 48 million tons of foreign and domestic commerce in 2014, saw that figure fall to 42 million in 2015 – still good for ranking No. 15 among all U.S. ports in total tonnage.
The Port of Texas City and the related Texas Terminal Railway Co. link the cargo with trains of the Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway.
Port of Galveston
A 19.6-acre vehicle processing and distribution center has been opened by Wallenius Wilhelmsen unit WWL Vehicle Services America Inc. at the Port of Galveston.
The facility, which became fully operational in April, includes more than 44,000 square feet of processing space in two buildings, as well as storage for more than 2,000 vehicles, under on-site management of BMW of North America LLC.
Also at the Port of Galveston, a $13 million expansion of Cruise Terminal No. 2 is nearing completion, while a $6.5 million downtown transit terminal opened in March.