New Port Of Houston Director Talks About How To Stay Competitive In The Global Marketplace

Roger Guenther, appointed Executive Director of the Port of Houston Authority
A longtime executive has been named the Port of Houston's new director. The change comes as one of the world's biggest ports faces increased competition and new technological demands.

Roger Guenther was the Port of Houston's Deputy Executive Director of Operations when he was selected to take over for departing Executive Director Len Waterworth.  

Guenther has been at the port for 26 years. He has a background in mechanical engineering, and started his career in maintenance at the port's container terminals. 

The 25-mile Port of Houston complex is one of the busiest ports in the world, and it carries more foreign tonnage than any other port in the country. Officials say the port handled a record 36 million tons of cargo in 2013.  

But there's still a lot of competition in the global marketplace, and Guenther says the port needs to get ready for bigger ships that will pass through a widened Panama Canal. 

"This year we expect to spend about $300 million in capital improvements."  

One of the big concerns right now is making sure the Houston Ship Channel is dredged to its proper depth. 

The port is supposed to get money for dredging through the federal Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. 

Guenther says the federal government collects about $120 million a year from the port in fees on import cargo, and that money goes into the trust fund. But the money the port gets back isn't enough.

"Last year we received $25 to $30 million for Houston to maintain that channel, when in fact to maintain the channel to its proper width and depth it needs about $40 or $50 million a year." 

Guenther says the port will now use its own money to dredge channels at the busy Bayport and Barbours Cut terminals, so they'll match the 45-foot depth of the main channel.  

"If our channels lose one foot of depth and the ships aren't able to be fully laden, just each and every ship by one foot, it's an economic cost to the region of close to $300 million dollars annually, just not being able to bring in ships fully laden."

Another big project involves upgrades to the Barbours Cut facility. That terminal was built in 1977.  

Guenther says they plan to spend between $600 and $700 million over the next five to ten years to make upgrades.

"We spent the better part of 2012 doing a conceptual master plan of Barbours Cut, to develop that and to rehabilitate the docks to handle much larger cranes."

Along with overseeing millions in new projects, Guenther this year will preside over numerous activities as the Port of Houston celebrates its 100th anniver

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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...