THE existing width of Houston's ship channel of 530 feet (161 metres) makes it too difficult for 150-foot wide ships to pass each other, says port infrastructure chief Rich Byrnes.
"We need to expand the size of the channel to accommodate the increasing size of the vessels so we can continue to support growth," he said, reported New York's FreightWaves.
Although Houston is ranked sixth among US container ports, it is "the port for containers and general cargo on the US Gulf Coast,¡± he said.
"We are the biggest foreign waterborne tonnage port in the country" said Mr Byrnes. "We are the No 1 energy, petrochemical and manufacturing centre in the country and perhaps the world [and] the No 1 steel and project cargo.¡±
The US Army Corps of Engineers has signed off on a five-year, US$10 million feasibility study, said Lori Brownell, Port Houston's director of channel improvement, who said widening work would begin next year.
The work will also include widening the channel by 170 feet to 700 feet along Galveston Bay. Upstream segments of the channel also will be deepened to 45 feet (13.7 metres).
A wider shipping channel is just part of Port Houston's vision for the future, said Rohit Saxena, director of facility planning.
Port Houston reported its container activity in August neared 2019's record volume levels for the first time since the impacts of Covid began to be felt early this year. The port handled 248,630 TEU in August, down four per cent year on year.
This also reflects a 5.9 per cent gain over July of this year, when Houston handled 234,737 TEU., and the port said shows a significant increase in container volume as compared to the previous several months.