It’s been quite a year for the Port of Houston, after a fire closure and a major tanker collision, the Houston Ship Channel has been under significant pressure to create safe passage for the 200 private and eight public terminals using the 52-mile federal waterway. Every day, the passage is utilized by a variety of organizations such as ocean carrier vessels, private terminals, Port of Houston Authority, Houston Pilots Association, and the U.S. Coast Guard, but the coordination of this daily activity has come to federal attention after local authorities began implementing casual restrictions based on water-level capacity and safety.
This past April, the local Port Authority implemented a rule limiting the number of calls a 9,500+ TEU vessel can have in the Houston Ship Channel. Piggybacking on the decision, Houston Ship Pilots also decided to prohibit two-way traffic on the narrow passageway further restricting the number of times a mega-vessel can visit to once weekly.
Now, non-cargo port users are building on the new rule and are pushing for further legislation, SB 2223 and HB 4436, to make these significant changes permanent. But locals aren’t just pushing for size restriction, they want more control, too. Locals also filed a secondary bill to remove decision-making authority on the Ship Channel from the Port Authority into a new, independent seven-member body appointed by the City.
While the goal is to ultimately expand the channel in order to accommodate all waterway activity, that target is more than five years from completion and immediate safety is of greater concern in the narrow passageway.
The Houston Customs Brokers & Freight Forwarders Association (HCBFFA) in partnership with the West Gulf Maritime Association (WGMA) have released a veto letter signed by major Associations and Carriers requesting the Governor to veto of the legislation.
VETO SB 2223
The undersigned represent the world’s largest shipping, trucking, labor, and retail companies and associations accounting for more than $137 billion in economic impact and over 500,000 direct and indirect jobs in the Houston area. This consumer supply chain of shippers, domestic suppliers, and retail sectors all contribute to a healthy economy and meet the economic needs of Houston’s families and our community.
Senate Bill 2223 proposes to restrict all large 1100’ vessels entering the Houston Ship Channel. On behalf of the thousands of Houstonians in this logistical supply chain, we urge your support in continuing to maintain an open Houston Ship Channel accessible to all industries. Please veto Senate Bill 2223!
Port Houston, as a public governmental agency, has the mission of supporting the entire 52-mile Houston Ship Channel. The scope of the Authority’s responsibilities and the Channel is immense, with impacts reaching far beyond the Houston region. Port Houston is the largest Gulf Coast container port handling an estimated 2.7 million containers annually which accounts for almost 70% of the U.S. Gulf Coast container traffic. It is the largest Texas port with a 96% market share in containers.With resins and plastics (a petroleum byproduct) making up almost 27% of its containerized exports, Port Houston is the largest exporter of the product. This resin and plastics manufacturing boom is producing record new export container volumes along with increasing employment opportunities for our community. Restricting these vessels will only stymie Houston’s economic growth.
According to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, citing a Martin Associates study, since 2011, the Port of Houston has seen a shift from liquid bulk cargo to more labor-intensive containerized cargo resulting in a net increase in direct employment. Any legislation restricting large 1100’ vessels entering the Houston Ship Channel will have potentially an irreversible, detrimental impact in our area.
Vessels of 1100’ or larger make up approximately thirty percent of fleet vessels for most major container lines. Restricting these vessels not only impact current ships but any future ships diverting these moveable economies to other ports such as New York, Norfolk, Savannah, or Miami.
Houston and the State of Texas spent over a decade preparing for the Panama Canal expansion and the economic opportunities it would bring. Now that vessels are arriving, let’s not let this economic generator sail by. The Houston Ship Channel cannot become overly dependent on one industry. We ask you to stand for an economically diverse Houston Ship Channel and veto Senate Bill 2223.
Agriculture Transportation Coalition
Ceres Gulf, Inc.
International Longshoremen’s Association
Red Hook Terminals
Terminal Link Texas
Texas Cotton Association
Texas Retailers Association
Texas Trucking Association
International Longshoremen’s Association
United States Maritime Alliance
West Gulf Maritime Association
World Shipping Council