Port of Houston: Port Report
The logistics industry would be nothing without shipping ports providing a gateway around the world for goods. Each of these ports is unique, an important piece of the complex puzzle that is global distribution. To highlight the value each of these ports brings to the table, we present Port Report. This weekly series shares some […]

by | Aug 19, 2022

The logistics industry would be nothing without shipping ports providing a gateway around the world for goods. Each of these ports is unique, an important piece of the complex puzzle that is global distribution. To highlight the value each of these ports brings to the table, we present Port Report. This weekly series shares some of the history behind shipping ports around the world. In this first installment, we discuss Texas’ Port of Houston.

Located on the Texas Gulf of Mexico coast, the Port of Houston is the busiest in the United States in terms of foreign tonnage. Additionally, it is the second-busiest in the US in terms of overall tonnage. This is despite being one of the youngest major ports in the world at only 108 years old.

Port of Houston – Past

A black and white image of lifting towers at the port of Houston in the late 19th or early 20th century.
Lifting towers at the port of Houston in the late 19th or early 20th century.
Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.

The Port began life in the mid-late 19th century alongside the city of Houston, in an area called “Allen’s Landing.” As shipping needs grew leading up to the turn of the 20th century, there became greater need for a deep-water channel. This type of channel would allow larger, newer vessels to dock in Houston. However, it wasn’t until a Hurricane rocked Galveston in 1900 that the true urgency of the situation became clear.

A black and white image of the Port of Houston, with several ships docked along the right side.
The Houston Port in its early days.

Subesquently, a significant amount of new infrastructure was introduced in the rebuilding period following the Hurricane, and the port was no exception. In particular, Rep. Tom Ball led the charge with a revolutionary proposal unlike any seen before. He suggested the city of Houston share the cost of dredging the deep-water channel with the federal government. This proposal, called The Houston Plan, was unanimously approved, and the port officially opened on November 10th, 1914. [Source 1][Source 2]

Present

A sunset over the Houston shipping port, with multicolored containers and a ship.
A sunset over the Port of Houston

Today, the Port of Houston primarily handles cargo in the Liquid Bulk category, such as petroleum and cooking oil. Nevertheless, the port’s statistics are impressive; in 2020 a total of 276 million short tons of foreign and domestic waterborne tonnage moved through. In 2021, a total of $169.7 billion in foreign cargo passed through the Port of Houston. Liquid Bulk makes up 70% of this cargo, and Containerized Cargo makes up another 20%. The other 10% of the cargo is made up of Project Cargo (3%), Dry Bulk (4%), and General Cargo (3%). [Source]

The local economy benefits greatly from the Port of Houston as well. Businesses related to the Houston Ship Channel contribute over 1.35 million jobs throughout Texas. In total, 20.6% of Texas’ GDP comes from the Houston Ship Channel. [Source]

Future

A shipping terminal at Port Houston on the water during the day. A ship is docked in front of it and a smaller vessel is approaching it from the left.
A shipping terminal at the Port of Houston.

In 2021, the Port of Houston introduced a plan to ensure sustainable growth for the Houston Ship Channel in the future. They called it The 2040 Plan and introduced four key strategies, Channel, Cargo, Community, and Change. Planning this far into the future will ensure that Port Houston remains prepared for the future of global shipping, whatever that may be.

As your cargo makes its way to its destination, this Port often plays a vital role in the process. With its rich history and its exciting future, this port is one to watch.

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