The Port of Houston Commission has approved a $68 million construction contract with Orion Construction L.P. to fund improvements to the channels leading to the Bayport and Barbours Cut container terminals.
The project will deepen the channel and existing container berths at both locations, widen the Bayport Channel and container berths at Barbours Cut, dredge a future berth at Bayport and raise levees at Placement Area 15.
The port said the projects will begin following issuance of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits and approval of its assumption of maintenance of the channels.
The Houston Ship Channel is at a 45-foot operating depth, but the approach channels to its two container terminals are at 40 feet.
Executive Director Roger Guenther told American Shipper
in an interview last month that the port expects to deepen channels to both terminals to 45 feet by the end of the year.
“The big ships are already coming; we’re already seeing 8,500-TEU ships come into Houston,” he said, but without 45 feet of water, they cannot be fully laden.
Deep channels are particularly important, he said, because Houston is a major exporting port and many of its leading commodities are heavy cargo. About 60 percent of the cargo handled at the port is exports and 40 percent imports.
Rather than go through the process of seeking federal authorization and appropriation of funds for deepening the container channels -- a process the port said it believed might take as long as 15 years -- Houston is funding the project on its own.
“We have been working closely with the Corps of Engineers and we are on the cusp of getting these permits to move forward with the dredging of these two channels."