Port Of Houston Spends Money To Prepare For Panama Canal Expansion

The Port of Houston is about to spend about a million dollars on a dredging project as it prepares for bigger ships. Officials say the work is crucial for the port to stay competitive.

In 2007 the main stem of the Houston Ship Channel was dredged to a depth of 45 feet.  Now officials want to dredge at two busy terminals to match that depth.

Those terminals are Bayport and Barbours Cut. 

Port Executive Director Leonard  Waterworth says the work is in preparation for the bigger ships they're expecting through a widened Panama Canal.

"Commerce wants to come to Houston because we're such a growing community, with our population growth, with our petrochemical industry."

The Port Commission has allocated $550,000 for the Bayport project.  Barbours Cut will cost about $400,000. 

The port is paying for the work itself, despite the fact it does get money from the federal Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. 

The port contributes about $100 million a year to the fund, but Waterworth says they only get back about $20 million.

"The requirements to maintain 52 miles of channel and support the 150 businesses along the ship channel, the requirement for that kind of maintenance is about $50 to $60 million a year." 

Waterworth says they expect to start seeing bigger ships early in 2015.  Houston is currently ranked as the nation's top exporting port. 

Bio photo of Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

Gail Delaughter joined KUHF in October 2008 as Saturday morning news anchor and host. A native of New Orleans and a graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University, Gail has extensive experience in Texas and Louisiana as a radio news reporter and morning show anchor and co-host...