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Building Bayport: Boom or Bust?


BY Patrick Seeba - Greater Houston Port Bureau HMF Expenditures [ January 06, 2011 at 16:14:48 ]

The Bayport container terminal has endured its share of challenges since the permitting process for its construction began in 1998, and the Port of Houston Authority continues its work to ensure that the build out process is responsible to the community and the region. But why was Bayport built, and what has it really done for the region?

Loaded container volume in the United States has grown over a thousand fold since 1977 when the Port of Houston Authority began moving boxes across the dock at the Barbour’s Cut container facility. At that time, the largest container ships could hold just over 2,000 TEUs,compared with the over-10,000 TEU vessels that travel some routes today. The Port of Houston’s market share in the gulf coast is just above 67% making Houston the preferred port in the region. As a multi modal transportation hub and a center of warehousing and distribution, H/Clark Freight Linesouston looks to continually not only increasing the number of TEUs coming across local docks but also themarket share in the Gulf and the country as a whole. In order to do that, the mantra “if you’re not growing, you’re slowing” is critical—especially with infrastructure development that can take decades to plan, develop, build and grow into its optimal operational tempo.

“The changes we are seeing in patterns of trade are fundamental … the West Coast ports are unlikely to go into long term decline … [but] we do expect up to 25% of the West Coast ports’ present import cargo base could be lost to the East & Gulf ports in the decade to come” noted Drewry Shipping Consultants in late 2008. This report was based on information gathered during the busiest years of container movement in Gulf history.

In 2006, the Barbour’s Cut container facility was, for all practical purposes, overwhelmed from a traffic management perspective. Though the terminal was able to meet customer demand, vessels werecoming and going at a pace that would not allow for growth or development. Constructing a timetable of vessel movements, /Clark Freight Linesthe Barbours Cut docks were the most used in the region and showed constant traffic. With vessels coming and going at such arapid pace, the 2007 opening of the Bayport Container Terminal was a lifeline.

With a design capacity of 2.3 million TEUs representing more than 32,000 jobs, over $2.4 billion in revenue, $1.4 billion in personal income, and $128 million in state & local taxes, Bayport is designed to take advantage of the big-box retail distribution facilities which make their homes in Texas. The Wal-Mart distribution center at Cedar Crossing alone is over 4,000,000 square feet, encompassing the space of over 620 football fields, and represents over $124 million in property taxes over the life of its current 30-year lease. Wal Mart is joined by centers for Home Depot, Exel, Siemens, Bayer, and Gulf Winds International—a 3PL company with over 1.5 million square feet of warehouse space including a facility less than thirty yards from one of the Barbour’s Cut truck entrances. The Bayport facility's economic impact has already overshadowed the initial design predictions of tax revenue and jobs created and thefacility is only about half-way to full build-out.

Truck In 2006, the Port of Houston moved 1.6 million containers. Before Bayport, that represented a resource overload. Since Bayport opened, the Port has seen marked growth of container volume moving through the region—boxes that wouldn’t have been able to come through without the new terminal. With a third of our national economy tied to global trade and 95% of that coming on the water, long-term infrastructure planning is the only way to build a sustainable future. So is Bayport a boomor a bust? As consumers, we vote with our pocketbooks, and the 9,800 jobs already created make a strong statement. With the Houston retail market one of the strongest in the nation, gaining ground all through 2010, the regional community has cast its vote in the direction of growth. –Patrick Seeba, GHPB


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