Port Houston Texas is located on the Bay Area Houston’s southeast corner. The Houston metro area comprises seven cities. Its waterfront has length of approx 35 mi (56 km) and connects Galveston TX and Houston TX. The city has population around 2,1 million (metro over 6,3 million) ranking it USA's 4th largest - after NYC New York, Los Angeles California and Chicago Illinois.
Houston cruise port terminal (Bayport) was finished in 2008 but officially opened in November 2013. It used to serve two cruise lines - Princess and NCL-Norwegian. Roundtrip Western Caribbean itineraries from Houston included as call ports Cozumel (Mexico), Roatan Island (Honduras) and Belize City.
Located on the Gulf of Mexico, Houston is USA's largest container port, handling nearly 70% of all containerized cargo shipped through the Gulf. The port is ranked USA's largest (by foreign and domestic waterborne tonnage) and USA's 5th largest (by containership traffic) - following Los Angeles, Long Beach, New York-New Jersey, Savannah GA.
Port Houston currently has 8 public terminals plus ~200 private cargo terminals all positioned along Houston Ship Channel. The port's annual economic value is ~USD 802 billion and it supports 3+ million American jobs.
Port Houston's annual deepwater vessel traffic is almost the same as the combined totals for the next three USA's largest cargo ports (Los Angeles, Long Beach, NYC-New Jersey). Port's activities sustain ~3 million American jobs, generate USD 802+ billion (annual economic impact) and provide ~USD 38 billion in annual tax revenue.
Port's additional growth is partially due to the expansion of the petrochemical processing facilities along the Ship Channel. This also results in an increase in shipping of synthetic resins (byproduct of the petrochemical process), many of which are containerized exports across port's docks. Retail imports are also growing in recent years.
The 50-mi long (80-km) long Houston Ship Channel is USA's busiest deep-water inland waterway, serving annually 9000+ ship transits and 200,000+ cargo barge transits. Via Houston Ship Channel are accessed 200+ docks (private and public berthing areas).
- On April 24, 2020, the USACE (US Army Corps of Engineers) was contracted for the Houston Ship Channel Expansion Project (aka "Project 11"). The deal followed a 4-year (USD 10 million) study. Project's sole sponsor is Port Houston. The project aims to increase the cargo shipping volumes by allowing larger-sized vessels to transit the waterway.
- Project 11 includes easing channel's bends, widening the bay reach to 700 ft ()213 m, widening to 455 ft (139 m) Bayport Ship Channel and Barbours Cut Channel. Works also include deepening (dredging) the waterway between Boggy Bayou and the Main Turning Basin and sectional widening between Boggy Bayou and Greens Bayou.
- The dredged material will be used to create ~400 acres (162 hectares / 1,6 km2) of tidal marsh land (bird island habitat) and ~377 acres (1,5 km2) of oyster reef in Galveston Bay.
In July 2016, Port Houston exited the cruise business as port commissioners decided to sell Bayport Cruise Terminal's gangway system.
- Initially, the port expected annually ~300,000 cruise passengers. Bayport Cruise Terminal was opened in 2008, but the first ships arrived in 2012, with Princess and NCL-Norwegian homeporting vessels here. Princess Cruises started turnaround operations in 2013-2014 (total 27 departures). NCL started operations in 2014, with total 75 ship calls (over 5-year period) plus 2 more years optional.
- To allure Princess and NCL, Bayport paid the companies, respectively, USD 0,685 million and USD 6 million. Both deals also included free of charge use of the cruise terminal facility. In addition, NCL received another USD 2 million if the company extended the berthing contract into 2017-2018. Cruise ship calls supported nearly 300 local jobs.
In September 2017, Houston Ship Channel suffered from Hurricane Harvey. Devastating torrential rains inundated USA's Gulf Coast (coastline along which Southern USA meets Gulf of Mexico). During the storm, floodwater deposited tons of silt into Houston Ship Channel and throughout Galveston Bay. The port authority required significant canal dredging (done by USACE) to be able to restore normal shipping traffic for neo-Panamax vessels at port's authorized depth and width. Hurricane Harvey damages to the seaport included dramatic shoaling at the entrance waterways of the main cargo terminals.
In October 2017, the port installed 3 new (China-made) ship-to-shore-cranes at Barbours Cut Container Terminal.
- The new gantry cranes arrived on Oct 23 (after 3-months shipping from China) and entered Houston Ship Channel with their booms raised (total height 113 m / 371 ft). They were transported via specialized heavy load carrier across Pacific Ocean.
- After installation, each crane stands 270 ft (82 m) high. All cranes became operational in 2018. They are part of Port Houston's USD 700 million Barbours Cut Container Terminal modernization program. The project increased the terminal's cargo-handling capacity and efficiency as more and larger container ships calli the port since the Expanded Panama Canal's opening in June 2016. The larger vessels require larger and faster cranes.
- The new Sammax/Super Post-Panamax cranes (total cost USD 33,5 million) were ordered in 2015 and manufactured by Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries (Shanghai China) - a renowned company specializing in building large-sized container and bulk cargo handling machinery. The first 4 cranes were delivered in 2015. Another 3 ship-to-shore cranes for Bayport Container Terminal were delivered in early-2018.
In May 2019, Port Houston reported for FY2018 (fiscal year, April-April) 9% increase in total tonnage (over 2017). Loaded TEU-container tonnage grew by 11%. TEUs grew 13% (15% year-over-year growth). Steel imports grew by 31%. Exports grew by 38%. Polyethylene exports grew by 62%.
In August 2019, the terminal operator company Kinder Morgan Inc (KMI) announced a series of USD 170 million (total investment) projects for KMI's Pasadena Terminal and Galena Park Terminal. These gas and liquids terminals were expanded to total 10 ship berths, 38 barge berths, 20 inbound pipelines (linking to 10 refineries/chemical plants), 15 outbound pipelines, and ~43 million barrels of on-dock liquid storage.
In November 2020, Port Houston was officially ranked USA's largest in terms of total tonnage (both domestic and foreign) and also by the number of handled vessels. In 2019 were handled nearly 285 million cargo tons (~47 million more than any other port in the USA) which was a 6% increase over 2018. The port surpassed even the Port of South Louisiana. For 24 years, Port Houston was #1 in foreign waterborne tonnage while Houston Ship Channel is the USA's currently busiest waterway used by ~50 deepwater vessels daily.
For 2021 is planned to be completed the "Houston Ship Channel Expansion Project 11". It will result in widening the channel (along the Galveston Bay reach) by 170 ft (52 m) - from 530 to 700 ft (213 m). The waterway's upstream segments will be also deepened to 45 ft (14 m).
Houston port statistics
Port's container shipping volume in 2017-Q1 increased by 14% (over 2016), driven mainly by import growth (26%). In the period Jan-Nov 2017, port's cargo shipping volume increased by 9% (over Jan-Nov 2016) - to nearly 35 million tons, with main drivers being containers (over 2,4 million TEUs) and steel imports.
- In 2017, the seaport reported its highest ever total cargo tonnage - 38,3 million tons. The previous record year was 2014 (37,8 million tons).
- 2017 was also a record-year for port's containership business, with handled total 2,46 million TEUs (13% increase over 2016's 2,18 million TEUs). The port reported 99% uptime in reliability for its total 22 ship-to-shore cranes.
- In 2017 were completed construction contracts with combined worth over USD 200 million. Among the projects were both container terminals (North and South), gantry cranes (Bayport terminals), Wharf 2 rehabilitation (Barbours Cut terminal).
In 2018 were completed Bayport Channel's dredging works (widening and deepening the waterway). This resulted in rapid growth (10% over 2017) in large boxships using port's cargo terminal facilities and a record number of TEU lifts (5700) on one vessel.
In May 2018, Houston was nominated "Best Seaport in North America" in an online vote by around 10,000 international marine shipping companies and industry experts, The ceremony was held in Shanghai China, following the survey done by "Asia Cargo News". Port's container import growth in 2018 continued to be driven mainly by East Asia trade, with reported for 2017 over 13 million tons of cargoes (2% increase) through Houston.
Part of USD 100 million investment plan, 8 ship-to-shore cranes (3x Super Post-Panamax, 5x rubber-tired) were delivered at Bayport Terminal in August 2018. All new cranes were installed at Bayport Wharf 2. The units are state's largest (height 82 m / 270 ft tall, boom length 64 m / 211 ft) with capacity to serve boxships up to 22 containers wide. The cranes cost USD 35 million (each ship-to-shore) and USD 2 million (each rubber-tired).
As of 2018, Port Houston has a total of 26 ship-to-shore cranes (at Bayport and Barbours Cut terminals), 13 of which super post-Panamax. Also in 2018, Houston port authority awarded USD 49 million contract for Bayport's Container Yard 7 (adding 50 acres of TEU storage area). In 2018 were ordered 8 diesel-electric RTGs (rubber-tired gantry cranes by Konecranes, lifting capacity 50 tons) with hybrid power packs and remote connection capabilities (TRUCONNECT). The RTGs will be delivered in 2020-Q1 and installed at Barbours Cut Terminal, to total 32 operational gantry cranes.
FY2018 was a record year for container shipping - with 10% growth over FY2017. The handled general cargo reached 3,5 million tons (+8%). Container terminals averaged around 600 moves per hour. Total tonnage was another record (35,7 million tons, or +9%). Port's Operating Revenue was USD 366 million (USD 333 million in 2017). Port’s public facilities generated USD 162 million (USD 151 million in 2017). TEUs increased 10% (to 2,7 million). Steel tonnage increased 21% (to 4,4 million tons).
Port's 2019 container shipping increased 11% (18th consecutive year growth) with handled 2,987291 million TEUs. Container exports grew 17%, imports +5%. October was the busiest month. In October 2020, the handling increased to 296,000+ TEUs (port's ever-busiest month) with an 18% increase in loaded containers and revenue USD 36,6 million.
In June 2020, by the US Department of Transportation's INFRA program "Rebuilding America", Port Houston received USD 79,472 million (~EUR 70,8 million) for infrastructure restoration, improvements and upgrades at Barbours Cut Container Terminal. The INFRA grant was requested for Port Houston’s USD 198 million (~EUR 176,5) infrastructure development project that included 60% port funding and 40% INFRA funding. The 1975-opened cargo terminal has total wharf length 6000 ft (1829 m) and land area ~390 acres (158 hectares / 1,6 km2) including yards and service areas.
Port Houston's "2021 Capital Plan" (budgeted USD 239 million) targets primarily container terminals as well as redevelopments of existing facilities and infrastructure.
Houston cruise terminal
Houston cruise port terminal is an hour (45 miles) from George Bush Intercontinental Airport and the distance to Hobby Airport is 45 minutes (20 miles). It is 30 minutes closer compared with Galveston cruise port.
Bayport cruise terminal
Houston cruise port was one of the busiest ports in the middle 1800s. In 1837 it welcomed its first steamboat. The cruise terminal in Houston was built in 2008. Bayport Cruise terminal cost USD 108.4 million. With the start of it service in 2013, the authorities expect the economic impact for the next four years to be over USD 200 million. The future development plans are to overtake Galveston cruise port as Texas’ cruise capital.
Houston cruise port terminal is on the Galveston Bay’s edge, between the Kemah and La Porte suburbs. Houston Downtown is 30 miles away.
The easiest options to reach the Bayport cruise terminal is by taxi. Also you can use independent shuttles. If you come by car, there is a parking area with 1,000 spaces. It is located in fron Houston cruise port terminal and it is monitored by the Port authorities 24/7.
Parking costs USD 80 for a 7-day cruise (USD 11.50 per day), pre-paid discount: USD 5 for a 7-day cruise.
Houston tours, shore excursions, hotels
City Tours and Shore Excursions
- Bayou Place: megaplex for entertainment. It is in the heart of the Downtown Theater District in Houston. The 130,000 square foot area comprises bars, theaters, restaurants and lounges. Here is the largest and most popular rock&roll nightclub in Houston – ROCBAR.
- Galleria Mall: the largest mall in Texas. It is located on Westheimer Rd.
- Johnson Space Center: located in the south-east part of Houston. It is the NASA astronaut corps’ home. There are 100 facilities span on 1,620 acres. Try the zero-gravity environment or a virtual launch of a rocket.
- Houston Zoo: placed 7th in the America’s most visited zoos. See over 4,500 animals in the amazing landscaped grounds. You can chose a guided tour from shadowing a veterinarian for a day to a lion cub feeding.
- Museum District: discover collections of galleries, cultural centers and museums including the Museum of Fine Arts, the John P. McGovern Health Museum, the Lawndale Art Center, Holocaust Museum and Houston Center for Photography.
- Splashtown: water park, great options for all the family. It is situated in the north part of Houston. There are attractions like a lazy river, several slides and a wild wave pool. The kids will enjoy the Crocodile Isle.