Houston Ready for Post-Panamax Vessels
With the first portion of its dredging project completed, the Port of Houston Authority’s Barbours Cut terminal is now ready for post-panamax vessels to call.
The expansion allows vessels with a 45-foot operating draft to use the terminal and prepares Houston to accommodate the future fleet of mega-size box ships expected to call once the Panama Canal expansion project is completed in April 2016.
Houston has invested nearly $69 million to expand its Barbours Cut and nearby Bayfront container terminals. The Bayfront terminal expansion is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2016.
Handling 67 percent of U.S. Gulf of Mexico’s containerized cargo, Barbour’s Cut is Houston’s busiest container terminal. Recently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated that the Barbours Cut expansion could result in over $900 million in combined local, state and economic benefits over the next 50 years.
Earlier this week, the MSC Oriane became the first mega-size box ship to enter the port. The Panama-flagged vessel is a 72,900-dwt ship, and at 912 feet long and 131 feet wide, would be too large to transit the current Panama Canal.
But Houston has already experienced a surge in activity. The port authority reports that it has handled over 21 million tons cargo this year, which is an eight percent increase from 2014.
In addition to dredging, Houston also plans to renovate its wharves and purchase new equipment to prepare for the post-panamax vessels.
In May, Houston took delivery of four super post-Panamax cranes, which are nearly 30 stories tall and worth $50 million each, at Barbours Cut.