Port Houston is a Symbol of Houston’s Values and Economic Spirit
I have the privilege of visiting our Port Houston regularly these days. As a native Houstonian, I am very proud of our port. I am in awe of the economic impact the Port provides Houston, and the identity Houstonians have in the Port. Its size and shape, especially for an inland city, are a marvel. I am familiar with the dynamics, the channel dimensions, and the companies that are customers of the Port. But, actually visiting the Port gives me a sense of pride and joy. Yes, no matter where you live in the Houston area or in what industry you work, Port Houston is OUR port, and you should be proud.
Houston has been a port city since our founding when the Allen Brothers sailed up the Buffalo Bayou. Early on, the Buffalo Bayou Ship Channel was sufficient for the many cotton exports from Texas. But that didn’t last long. By the 1870s, we needed a larger port. Thanks to a revolutionary concept by U.S. Congressman Tom Ball (and, yes, Tomball, Texas, is named for him), the Harris County Houston Ship Channel Navigation District was created by which the City of Houston shared the cost of dredge along with the federal government. On November 10, 1914, the newly deepened channel was officially opened for business. Our port was the first port built with federal and local matching funds (now a requirement for all U.S. Port funding). In 1971, the Ship Channel was renamed by the Texas Legislature to the Port of Houston Authority. The Port is operated as an independent political subdivision of the State of Texas with a seven-member commission.
Our Port is a 25-mile-long complex that joins another 27 miles out to sea. It is the busiest port in total tonnage (Port of South Louisiana used to be first) in the U.S. A 2019 study by Martin Associates found that Port of Houston related business contributes 1,350,695 jobs throughout Texas, which helps contribute $339 billion of total economic value in the state. From that, the Port generates nearly $5.7 billion in state and local tax revenues. Additionally, the Port is the busiest waterway in the country. Thanks to the Port of Houston, Texas is the nation’s top exporting state, too, with 19.5% of the overall U.S. exports in 2020 and has been for two decades. What are our top export markets? They are Mexico, Canada, China, Brazil, and the Netherlands.
And, did you know the Port of Houston was the destination of the World’s first container ship? The SS Ideal X was the first commercially successful container ship. She made her maiden voyage from Port Newark, New Jersey, to Port Houston on April 26, 1956. Each year, more than 200 million tons of cargo move through our Port, many of which are petrochemical products. The Port of Houston is home to the largest petrochemical complex in the U.S. As a Houstonian, I’m proud of that!
Our port does not just transport petrochemical products. Most Volkswagen and Audi automobiles sold in North America pass through the Port of Houston. We trade other items such as coffee, machine parts, and granite, too. And, even passenger cruise lines use our Port – Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises.
Are you interested in seeing Port Houston close-up? The M/V Sam Houston provides free tours all during the year. Since the Ship Channel does not allow recreational boats, a Sam Houston Boat Ride is a real treat.
The Port of Houston is a true symbol of Houston, our economic spirit, and our hard-working values. The growth and vision that have been instituted at Port Houston over the past 100+ years has allowed Houston to be the international economic hub that it is today.