Texas ports are taking measures to deepen, widen ship channels, expand port capacity; Florida port receives cargo from new Aframax crude tanker

By Bevo Beaven, Editor, Oil & Gas 360

The Texas Gulf Coast is host to two ports working to expand capacity to accommodate the booming U.S. crude oil export trade—Port of Houston and Port of Corpus Christi. The two port facilities are separated by 200 miles of Texas coastline.

Ports Jockey for Booming U.S. Crude Oil Export Trade - Oil & Gas 360

The Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority met in special session this week in which it moved to accelerate the widening of the Houston Ship Channel, which it deems the nation’s busiest waterway. This project will be the eleventh significant widening and deepening of the channel since its conception, the Port Authority said in a statement.

The commission also adopted a resolution to further maximize current two-way traffic transiting the Houston Ship Channel and it was briefed on measures to make sure widening of the entire Galveston Bay reach of the ship channel is part of the next Houston Ship Channel dredging project.

The commission is seeking funding proposals for the widening initiative.

Larger container ships – record demand

Expansion of the Panama Canal, the growth of vessel sizes, and the region’s population growth have also resulted in record container demand, both for imported consumer goods and exported manufactured products, further driving the need for improvements to the channel.

Managing giant ship congestion: one-way traffic rule

To ensure unimpeded traffic of neo-panamax container vessels and other ships, under the terms of this new business rule, only one vessel that imposes “one-way traffic” on all deep-water ships transiting the Houston Ship Channel within Galveston Bay to call facilities within the Port of Houston may call on a Port Authority terminal in a given week. The commission said that is an interim solution intended to ensure unencumbered access to upper channel reaches.

The commission also budgeted $500,000 to support a traffic efficiency group for the channel. The idea is to optimize traffic flow on the channel, in response to continued requests for larger vessels to serve the fast-growing demand of containerized consumer imports, resin and agriculture exports, and the needs of the energy industry.

Ports Jockey for Booming U.S. Crude Oil Export Trade - Oil & Gas 360

U.S. petroleum exports history – Source: EIA

An economic thoroughfare

The 52-mile Houston Ship Channel brings traffic into and out of the greater Port of Houston’s more than 200 private and eight public terminals. In 2018, the Houston Ship Channel generated $801 billion in U.S. economic value, supported 3.2 million jobs, and provided $38 billion in tax revenue. In the state of Texas, it generated $339 billion in economic value, sustained 1.3 million jobs, and generated $5.6 billion in state and local tax revenue.

The Port of Houston supports the creation of nearly 1.35 million jobs in Texas and 3.2 million jobs nationwide, and economic activity totaling $339 billion in Texas – 20.6 percent of Texas’ total gross domestic product – and more than $801.9 billion in economic impact across the nation, the Port said in a statement.

Houston says it is the country’s No. 1 export city in light of the location of the Americas’ largest petrochemical manufacturing complex is there. Energy production and the export of crude oil and the increasing global demand for chemicals produced in the region are major drivers of growth for the port.


Corpus Christi port expansion

The Port of Corpus Christi also recently announced a ship channel and port expansion project. Oil producers in the Permian and Eagle Ford basins are thrilled to move their light crude oil to offshore customers. Corpus Christi is already the 4th largest U.S. port in total tonnage, with a 36-mile, 47 foot (MLLW) deep ship channel.

This work will give its two docks access to the improved 56’ ship channel depth, making it the United States’ first and only onshore terminal capable of fully loading Suezmax vessels and nearly full loading Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs).

Last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) awarded the first dredging contract for the Corpus Christi Ship Channel Improvement Project to the largest U.S. dredging company, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company (GLDD), to deepen the channel to a depth of 56’ from the Channel entrance to Harbor Island, and a planned depth of 54’ throughout the rest of the harbor.

The POCC has initiated a 50-year lease with the Carlyle group and Berry Group to create a facility that can fully load Suezmax category of tankers in port. Lone Star Ports’ facility on Harbor Island is designed to be the deepest-draft safe harbor crude export facility in the nation when commissioned.

“This long-term commitment is testament to the significance of the Corpus Christi gateway for American energy exports, which are expected to triple in the next decade,” said Sean Strawbridge, CEO for the Port of Corpus Christi.

“A 50-year lease agreement with the Carlyle Group and the Berry Group joint-venture company, Lone Star Ports, is not only complementary to our existing marine terminal infrastructure but also positions the Port of Corpus Christi to be the preferred outlet for US-produced crude exports serving all major global demand centers for generations to come,” he said.

The Port of Corpus Christi reported that it exported $10.8 billion of crude oil to U.S. trading partners in 2018.

Port Canaveral, Florida, gateway to space, is first North American call for new Aframax tanker

Florida’s central Atlantic coastline is known for its thrilling space shot launches, going all the way back to Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, the Space Shuttle and many unmanned space vehicle launches dating back to the dawn of the space race.

Port Canaveral, a seaport on Florida’s east coast is a popular viewing post for launches. The SpaceX Falcon Heavy commercial launch vehicle is scheduled for launch tonight from Port Canaveral. According to a statement from Port Canaveral, many thousands of people have enjoyed spectacular space vehicle launch views from the Port.

The Port Canaveral tourists had another large non-space vessel to gaze at for a couple of days in March.

The 820-foot-long ProStar, the first of its kind vessel to berth at Port Canaveral, made its inaugural North American delivery of transportation fuels to Seaport Canaveral last week. Granted, this ship was delivering jet fuel to the U.S. port, not loading U.S. crude oil for export, but the size, class and destination were notable.

Ports Jockey for Booming U.S. Crude Oil Export Trade - Oil & Gas 360

The Aframax tanker docked at North Cargo Berth 2, for its first delivery in North America to discharge 442,131 barrels of jet fuel at Seaport Canaveral.

Built in 2018, the 820-foot-long, 144-foot-wide ProStar, with a crew of 23 and a summer dead weight tonnage of 115,000 tons, is the first Aframax vessel to visit the Florida port.

An Aframax ship is a medium-sized crude oil tanker with a dead weight tonnage ranging between 80,000 and 120,000 tons and a capacity to carry up to 132,000 tons of crude oil. The term is based on the Average Freight Rate Assessment (AFRA), a tanker rate system created in 1954 to standardize shipping contract terms.

Ports Jockey for Booming U.S. Crude Oil Export Trade - Oil & Gas 360
“The ProStar’s arrival emphasizes Port Canaveral’s growing role in supporting Central Florida’s economic growth,” Port CEO Captain John Murray stated. “Upgrades to berth infrastructure, our channel and turning basin have enhanced our ability to accommodate increased cargo volumes coming into the region.”

The ProStar originally loaded its jet fuel cargo at a port in South Korea, then sailed 45 days to Port Canaveral, unloaded the jet fuel and departed Port Canaveral for New York on March 16.

Port Canaveral describes itself as a “gateway for cruises, cargo, recreation and logistics, as well as a gateway to new frontiers, including space.”   Port Canaveral reports hosting more than 4.5 million revenue cruise passengers and more than 6 million of tons of cargo annually.








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