Port chairman stresses need for a deeper, wider channel

Port of Houston Commission Chairman Ric Campo updates the BAHEP crowd on the State of the Port at the Hilton.

By Kathryn Paradis

Neither rain nor wind nor anything else brought on by Tropical Storm Imelda could stop Ric Campo, chairman of the Port of Houston Authority, from his appointed task of speaking to members of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership about the state of the port.

Considering the state of the weather Sept. 17, a good-sized audience gathered at the Hilton for the late afternoon reception.

What is the state of the port? It’s good. It’s really good. There are nearly 200 public and private terminals that make up the port. Houston is the nation’s No. 1 region for exports and home to the largest petrochemical manufacturing complex in the Americas.

Energy production and the export of crude oil, along with the increasing global demand for chemicals produced in the region, are major drivers of this success. This activity along the 52-mile ship channel has helped make the port the No. 1 U.S. port in foreign waterborne tonnage.

The economic impact of the greater port nationally includes 3.2 million jobs and $802 billion in economic value. In Texas, the port generates 1.35 million jobs and has an economic impact of $339 billion.

However, such growth can also create problems. Since 2015, there have been nine ship-ship or barge-ship collisions. He cautioned, “You ultimately have to get down to really simple concepts — no channel, no port, no port, no cargo, no cargo, no commerce, no commerce, no jobs. It really is about the channel.

“We have to make sure the channel is expanded and improved in order to meet this demand that is going on with increased cargo when it comes to both energy and containers. If we can’t move our energy products out through the channel, then the entire supply chain backs up. This creates serious issues for energy companies, for job growth, and for Texas. So, it’s really critical that we have a deeper and wider channel with two-way traffic.”

He concluded, “A wider channel is a safer channel. We have to make sure we protect lives as well as the environment. Jobs are important, but we can’t lose sight of the safety of everyone who lives around the channel. . .It will cost $1 billion . . .a lot of money, but when you think about the economic benefit, it’s really not. It’s about making sure that our kids and their kids have economic opportunity in the future and a better quality of life.”

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