Growth spurs Houston Port to Fast-Track Channel Widening

The Port of Houston is working to accelerate the widening of its ship channel after reporting its third straight year of double-digit volume growth, much of it from a 51 percent jump in resin ex-ports.

In an interview Roger Guenther, executive director of Port of Houston Authority, said completing the $1 billion project is critical to the port’s future, enabling it to simultaneously handle two 14,000-TEU vessels, the largest that can pass through the Panama Canal. In order to complete the project in four to five years instead of the decade it would typically take, the port is executing the government approval process, design work, and financing simultaneously, rather than sequentially, he said.

“Our number one priority is the expansion of the Houston ship channel, to make it wider and deeper,” said Guenther, a day after he laid out the authority’s 2020 plan for the port to authority board members in Houston. The urgency, he said, stems from a need to ensure that ship size is not limited and the “frequency of vessels isn’t disrupted, so that we can keep commerce flowing through our channel, so that we can continue to grow.”

That effort in 2020 will focus on marshaling stakeholder support and lobbying elected officials to get the project federal authorization through the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill this year and making sure the bill passes before the current legislative session ends in December.