Photo courtesy Port Houston

Port Houston Kicks Off $1 Billion Houston Ship Channel Expansion Project

Mike Schuler
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June 6, 2022

Port Houston and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have kicked off the $1 billion expansion of the Houston Ship Channel described as a “generation-defining project” for one of the nation’s busiest waterways.

The expansion project, officially known as “Project 11”, will widen and deepen the Houston Ship Channel to accomodate bigger ships. More than 200 people, including elected officials and representatives from multiple sectors in the maritime industry, attended an event kicking off the project.

“All of our partners here view what some would call problems or challenges as opportunities,” Port Houston Chairman Ric Campo said to the audience, but “opportunities to drive our industry forward and reimagine how we tackle these ‘challenges’ in new innovative ways, generating greater results for all.”

The project kickoff comes as the global supply chain faces unprecedented challenges that have highlighted the importance of ports and the maritime industry.

“All of our partners here view what some would call problems or challenges as opportunities,” Port Houston Chairman Ric Campo said to the audience, but “opportunities to drive our industry forward and reimagine how we tackle these ‘challenges’ in new innovative ways, generating greater results for all.”

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.

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.

Groundbreaking for the project took place in May.

Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company’s eco-friendly dredge Carolina. Photo: Port Houston

“Army Civil Works is proud to partner with the Port of Houston to invest funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to advance the expansion of the Houston Ship Channel,” said Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works Projects) Michael Connor. “This project is important on many levels, including improving the efficiency of our nation’s supply chains, promoting navigational safety, and creating environmental benefits through the innovative use of dredged material.”

“The sooner we complete and utilize the project that delivers an increased $134 million annual economic impact, the better,” Chairman Campo added. “And ultimately what this means is more jobs.”

The project is on schedule for completion in 2025.

“This project will enable Port Houston to continue to grow and respond effectively to whatever the future demand in the supply chain has to offer,” said Port Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther in his remarks. “A safe and efficient channel is the best way we can position Houston to provide a prosperous opportunity for the next generation.”

On display at the kickoff event were some of the many vessels keeping the channel safe and efficient, including Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company’s dredge Carolina, which will soon join the channel work.

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