houston ship channel

Houston ship channel File Photo: Port Houston

Port Houston Awards Contracts Totaling $450 Million to Expand the Houston Ship Channel

Mike Schuler
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June 21, 2022

Officials at the Port of Houston have approved $450 million to support the expanding of the Houston Ship Channel, one of the most critically important waterways in the country.

The Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority met during a special session last week where they awarded two of the largest contracts in the organization’s history, awarding Weeks Marine and Curtin Maritime Corporation contracts totaling $430 million to complete the remaining Galveston Bay segments of the Houston Ship Channel expansion project. In total, the Port Commission approved agenda items totaling $450 million supporting the channel expansion efforts.

The expansion project, officially known as “Project 11”, will widen and deepen the Houston Ship Channel to accomodate bigger ships.

“It’s an exciting day for Port Houston and the entire region and the millions of people who rely on the Houston Ship Channel for their livelihood and to bring them essential goods,” Chairman Ric Campo said. “One of today’s contracts to support Houston Ship Channel Expansion – Project 11 is historic and, to our knowledge, the largest award ever made.”

Weeks Marine and Curtin Maritime Corporation were the recommended recipients of the contracts based on the best value, including cost, schedule, environmental components, and Small, Minority and Woman-owned Business Enterprises (S/MWBE) inclusion.

“The teams recommended were the top proposers in all of these areas – best schedules, lowest costs and estimated NOx emissions, and most S/MWBE inclusion,” Executive Director Roger Guenther said in his report. “Nearly 32% of the contracts will go to S/MWBE companies, furthering our commitment to business equity, which is a priority for Port Houston.”

The 52-mile Houston Ship Channel is one of the most important waterways in the country, connecting the nation’s largest petrochemical complex with global markets. More vessels actually use the Houston Ship Channel than the next three largest U.S. ports combined – Los Angeles, Long Beach, and New York/New Jersey.

According to the USACE, the Houston Ship Channel is, in fact, the busiest waterway in the nation. Port Houston’s eight public terminals and more than 200 private facilities have an economic impact of nearly $802 billion in annual activity to the nation, and support more than 2.1 million U.S. jobs.

Port Houston and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers kicked off the $1 billion expansion of the Houston Ship Channel earlier this month, described as a “generation-defining project.” Project 11 will widen the Houston Ship Channel by 170 feet along its Galveston Bay reach, from 530 feet to 700 feet, and also deepen some upstream segments to 46.5 feet. In 2021, the Port of Houston Authority awarded the first major dredge contract for the project, covering 11 1/2 miles, and widening a major portion of the Galveston Bay reach.

Project 11 is 82% funded, and efforts continue to secure the remaining federal funds. When complete, the USACE study shows Project 11 should add more than $133 million annually in national economic value. The project is on schedule for completion in 2025.

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